On Saturday August 6th, at 7am., 17 months after the first triangular canvasses were created I turned on Radio Ulster as I drove toBelfast. I was contemplating the length of time that the installation might take. I imagined that it would be installed by 2pm and we could get ready for the official launch at 4pm. Then the Radio Ulster News announced that Belfast Flags were attempting to break the World Record! It made me drive a bit faster. At 8am, myself, Patsy and Imma stood with high visibility vests, cable ties and the cable spool; we looked at our first lamp post on the corner of Cupar Way. The ladders clattered against a lamp post and I climbed 23ft and the start of the line of ‘art flags’ was strapped to the lamppost with plastic cable ties. As the day progressed and we spanned lamppost after lamppost with flags, other volunteers arrived to help.
At 4pm., people started to gather for the launch. We were just half way through the installation! Baroness May Blood and Tommy Holland arrived as witnesses. Jim and Penny arrived. Anita Young had travelled over fromEngland. My family arrived. A UTV News crew arrived. The public started to give a hand, and Liz Weir climbed a fence and untangled flags. Denmark Street Community Centre brought a fold out table and refreshments were set up.
I stopped to publicly announce our progress to date. ‘They’re not all up yet but today we will set a new World Record.’ Emphasis was put on the memory of Thomas Devlin and the mass expression of good hopes portrayed by so many people.
Both Baroness Blood and Tommy Holland told of their enthusiastic support for the goals of the project. There was a unanimous expression from all present that emphasised the hopes that next year Belfast Flags might appear all over the city. After some short discussions I returned to the job of installation.
By 7.30pm we finally reached the end of the line. The spool was empty. It took more than 11 ½ hours to install the colourful flight of art works along both sides of the peaceline. More than 10,000 art flags fluttered beautifully in the breeze. (**shankil photographers 3 deep images) Each had been individually painted and designed with colourful positive images that spoke of the core theme of happiness and dreams for a brighter future. It was the climax of a marathon project that had started in 2009 and it was a project of which all involved are very proud. The sight conveyed the a real sense of the definition provided by a Tibetan who described the Prayer Flags blowing in the wind as, ‘..blessings spoken on the breath of nature’.
This was the most ambitious community art project that I had ever embarked on. It was the largest community art exhibition thatBelfasthad ever witnessed. The entire project was implemented on a ‘shoestring’ budget and required a lot of voluntary activity from all involved. Without the active participation of all those who supported the vision of the project it would not have succeeded. I and the small committee of the Belfast Flags remain indebted to all those individuals and organizations that supported the Belfast Flags project in every way, importantly all those thousands of individuals who provided their creative talents to make the ‘art flags’.
The Belfast Flags of Hope is a project that has not ended. The active involvement of so many people in what was a shout to the world about who we really are was an important stage in an ongoing project.