Loyalism and Art

With our recent post about a piece of Art given to us we thought we would share an old event whom our friend William “Plum” Smith introduced the launching of. Everyone must be afforded the avenue to express their feelings in a mature and constructive manner and the Arts is perfect for this. Many political prisoners took up various positive and constructive pastimes and careers while they were incarcerated including, music, writing, handicrafts, education and arts.

The Loyalist Ex-Prisoners Art Exhibition took place in Crumlin Road Gaol on 28th March 2013. William opened the occasion with the following speech.

“First of all on behalf of the Ex-Loyalist Prisoners Community I would like thank you all for coming to the initial Launch of the Ex-Loyalist Prisoner Art Exhibition.

EPIC (Ex-Prisoners Interpretative Centre) is an organisation that represents the constituency of RHC/UVF Ex-Prisoners. Over the course of the conflict more that 10,000 Loyalists ended up incarcerated in the Prisons and Prison Camps of Northern Ireland and beyond. Almost every one of them passed through the gates of this prison at some time. Each one has their own story, their own experiences and each had their own way of dealing with the sentences handed down to them from the courts. Many political prisoners took up various positive and constructive pastimes and careers while they were incarcerated including, music, arts, writing, handicrafts and education. Some, like Danny Strutt and Tommy Cull, were even more creative by designing their own early release scheme when they escaped from these walls in 1973.

Today we present a small example of the work of three ex-loyalist prisoners who took up art and honed their talents by painting and sketching their way through their years of imprisonment. Upon their release they continue to paint and sketch, some as a pastime and some as a profession.

Their art is also a record of their time in prison a pictorial history captured by vivid imagination captured by the stroke of a pencil or the swish of a brush. There is an ocean of talent and exhibits hidden within the wider ex-prisoner community and by launching this exhibition we hope to stimulate more of the ex-prisoner community to come forward and display whatever creativity or talent they developed while they were imprisoned during the conflict.

Today I can see ex- loyalist and ex-republican prisoners in the audience as well as the general public. I think both ex-prisoner communities can agree for the benefit of the general public that it certainly wasn’t like this when we were last in here. The sample’s of art you will see here covers over three decades of the conflict and a message and lesson to us all.

As we stand on the eve of the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement the beauty of these paintings and sketches also tells the story of thousands of young men, young families and loved ones who endured the suffering and penalties of incarceration during the course of the conflict. We must all tell our stories whether it be through art, literature, poetry or whatever medium so that future generations will never have to endure the suffrage of our generation.”

The Launch was attended by over 100 people from all walks of life. The Art Exhibition was open to the public with a great response.