Flags of Hope

Monday, August 8, 2011

Flags: they can define us, divide us, inspire us, provoke us… These pieces of coloured material that flutter in the breeze, decorating our neighbourhoods, can often spark some deep reactions…

Flags of HopeAnd so a visual artist from Belfast decided to try and use flags to forge new links between our communities here.  Raymond Watson was in Tibet when inspiration struck…

“I was in the Himalyas and I saw hundreds of Tibetan prayer flags, as many as there are at home during the summer – except they were spreading hope of a better future.  And that was where the idea was generated from.”

When Raymond got home he spoke to the family of murdered north Belfast teenager Thomas Devlin and suggested the creation of a project in his legacy.  And so the Flags of Hope initiative was borne.

The aim: to create 10 thousand flags – all bearing individual messages of peace – that could be hung as bunting at one of the city’s interfaces.  This bunting would be a mile and a half in length and would set a world record.

The concept struck a chord  - youth groups, community organisations, ordinary people – all got on board and got creative.

“I insisted people used as much colour as possible. One of the main things was to allow freedom of design.  People were allowed to doodle with paint and colour,” says Raymond.

“Many people have written messages of good will for the future – there are beautiful themes. A lot of kids naturally use colour, older people have used peace images – but there are no two flags the same, they are multi-coloured and mult-messaged.”

And so this colourful array of flags have now been unfurled at Lanark Way in west Belfast.  A world record has been achieved, but so too has something much more significant…

“We’d people coming up to us to say that for once they were so happy to see flags flown in Belfast,” says Raymond.  It seems their presence at a city interface all too familiar with trouble, is making people smile and offering some signs of hope.


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