Written by Catherine O’Donnell, project manager at Off The Street Community Youth Initiative
When we came up with the idea for Cornshell Historical Culture Wall, we wanted to inspire the young people in Cornshell Fields estate, and celebrate the impact of Derry’s year as the first UK City of Culture. That’s why we chose to depict 29 of the county’s highest achieving figures in the public artwork, which we are delighted to unveil.
The murals were done by the young members of the Off The Street Community Youth Initiative in partnership with Cornshell Community Network, with the support of local artist Sean O’Donnell. To the young people, this wall represents the possibility of following their dreams and achieving them.
As Sean says, these kids began this project saying ‘I can’t’ and finished it saying ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ It was a total transformation of attitude and now they will be able to see the fruits of their labour every day.
The figures come from the worlds of the arts, literature, sport, music, and science. They were chosen by the young people and residents and include poet Seamus Heaney, Turner Prize nominated artist Willie Doherty, boxer John Duddy, the Undertones, and singer Nadine Coyle. We even have a mural of Amelia Earhart – the American aviator who touched down in a field in the Cornshell area after flying across the Atlantic in 1932, the first woman to do so solo.
These people are proof that this city punches above its weight in terms of sporting success and cultural resonance.
We were lucky enough to be joined at the unveiling on the 17th April by some of the people who are represented in the artwork, including boxer Charlie Nash. Others were unable to make it but sent representatives, and in some cases relatives came along to get a first look at the artwork.
The backdrop to the portraits of our highest achievers is the city itself – and it couldn’t be more fitting. We hope that the artwork will continue to act as an inspiration to young people here for many years to come.
Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund’s NI Director, said: “The Big Lottery Fund and Arts Council of Northern Ireland are delighted to be supporting this project. Our Culture for All programme has ensured that people and communities across Northern Ireland could take part in the first UK City of Culture celebrations and this project from Off The Street Community Youth Initiative is a fantastic example of how young people can get involved in finding out about their own culture.”
The Culture for All programme has now closed to applications.