I see that, the Environment Minister, Alex Atwood, has allocated some £500,000 to assist in a spruce up of Londonderry in anticipation of the much vaunted UK City of Culture year. Apparently £100,000 of this money is to be expended on the construction of eighty artistic panels around the vacant Tillie & Henderson site. Urban parks are also to benefit from certain of these monies as are areas such as Foyle Street and Shipquay Street.
If this inflow of additional funds was to be spent on regeneration projects there might well be good reason for providing the money, but surely that is not what is happening here. Is it not the truth that what is being funded is a cheap, (relatively!), cosmetic job, - a painting over of some very obvious cracks? How long will the artistic hoardings fail to attract the cities budding graffiti artists wanting to add their cultural messages? Unless the hoardings are of epic proportions the Tillie & Henderson site will still be very visible from the Craigavon Bridge.
Tourists and visitors will see these efforts for what they are, - well meaning yes, but still an attempt to hide the economic truth. The vacant shops and sites will still remain. There will still be over six thousand people on the dole queue. Sheets of hardboard and pots of paint will not provide the underclothing for this fur coated maiden city on the western ocean.