Artists to have ‘funeral’ after fire in cathedral quarter
A funeral-like performance is set to take place on Thursday evening in Belfast, where a devastating fire ripped through the cathedral building, causing millions of pounds in damage.
An 18-year-old man has been charged with arson after a fire broke out at a listed building on Monday morning, where more than 50 firefighters were involved in extinguishing the flames in the early hours.
A court heard on Tuesday that the fire caused more than £3m in damages, forcing many businesses to close, many from the creative sector.
Now, a group of artists, who have lost thousands of pounds worth of equipment and artwork in the fire, are organizing a demonstration to raise awareness of the “hostile conditions” artists have seen in Belfast in recent years.
Elly Makem (28), also known as EllyMakes, was part of the queer studio collective The 343 which operated from the second floor of the Cathedral Building.
She is helping organize the performance and said: “We want to highlight an increasingly hostile environment for artists and creatives throughout the city.
“It is not only our current position as artists of the Cathedral, we as artists are victims of a wider problem of corporate growth and regeneration that is prioritizing profit over the creative community and soul of Belfast City Centre.”
Organizers have asked people to gather in Buoy Park from 6 p.m. to join in mourning “the loss of our building and the more damage our city has been doing to creatives in decades”.
Participants are encouraged to wear black and bring cheap flowers in solidarity for “Our Little Funeral”.
“All the artists in Belfast are very much intertwined, we all know each other and over the years we have led some important grassroots movements that make real changes within the city and even in the law. And yet the city has done nothing to support us, Alley told the Belfast Telegraph.
“While we have received an overwhelming amount of support from everyone from all walks of life in the recently set up GoFundMe page by a fellow artist, we are yet to receive any proper help from the council or those in power.
“The council has offered us a temporary position, but it does not address the broader issue.
“As a city that benefits from putting artists on stage around the world — like the Turner Prize-winning Array Studios to name just one — we get nothing in return,” she said.
“We just want to be treated equally and given some sort of consistency in the work we do and when we’ve talked about that in the past, this fire is really and truly the straw that has made the camel broke his back, that’s enough.
“We need designated studio space and we need to stop the gentrification of these areas which is driving up rent and bill prices; The powers that be are allowing this to happen, let alone the fact that we don’t have a functioning government, so we are asking it to stop now.”
A Belfast City Council spokesman said: “Council officers are working with Destination CQ to help identify any vacant buildings within the city center that may be used as temporary spaces for businesses affected by the fire. We are also exploring how we can support businesses and artists with practical help regarding insurance and legal issues.”