IT’S all about the Belfast Turner Prize nominees the Array Collective this week.  I was delighted to see that the awards were being held in Coventry Cathedral which I visited recently. Unable to attend their annual peace conference in person, I attended online asking the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby what he thought about the importance of art in peacebuilding.  “Art is one of the most important parts of how peace is done,” he replied. “With art you can say things without words that if people spoke they would argue about.”   I asked could a proposed enhanced role for Coventry Cathedral be “helping England and Ireland get a more contemporary view of each other.”  He replied that England's relationship with Ireland was trauma, upon trauma, upon trauma, a kind of letting out of the dogs of war to Quote Shakespeare.

He spoke of their connections with Northern Ireland already with the community of nails but their role perhaps is to support people of faith in this arena. After attending the conference, I can say there is amazing work being done around peace with Coventry as a catalyst. Because they have been working on these matters since the Second World War they have an excess knowledge that would be useful for us. The University is working on global projects with children and has all sorts of interesting strands, often with art at their core. Why is this not happening to the same extent in Belfast universities?

ARRAY: From the 100 Years of Solitude exhibition in Coventry blasting partition

ARRAY: From the 100 Years of Solitude exhibition in Coventry blasting partition

It is logical that the Turner Prize, the UK’s star contemporary art prize, should be held within their walls. There was a panel consisting of Chris Hazzard MP, Emma Little-Pengelly, Jamie Bryson and Colin McGrath of the SDLP.

I asked them what did they think of the importance of art in peacemaking and had they visited the Array Collective's Turner Prize nomination which was right next door to the Cathedral. Maybe it was the fact that this question was rolled in with “Do you think there will be a United Ireland in the next one hundred years?” that it was ignored, but nobody had. Professor Jonathan Tonge said that he noticed the murals had been changing. No doubt he’s going to write a paper or produce a documentary about it (roll eyes).  

The Array Collective’s submission, if it does not end up in the Tate, is a museum piece. It captures a contemporary reality of Belfast in a very particular time in history. The winner of the prize will be announced by Pauline Black of The Selecter — thus honouring Coventry’s two-tone musical heritage — on Wednesday 1 December  BBC 4 at 7.15pm. I am told a number of local hostelries are going to show it. If you are interesting in visiting the exhibition, the run has been extended until mid-January. 

VVisual arts in Belfast are often overlooked and seriously under-resourced, yet still we prevail. Don’t forget we are moving into a big group exhibition season where you can catch a glimpse of some of the work that is happening on a continual basis, It’s nice to see Belfast Exposed set up a photo sale with the exhibition open from November 30 to  December 23.  Vault Artists Studios’ Christmas market is December 4 and 5. Saturday is also a night market with music. I once went to a night market in Conway Mill which was brilliant, could this not be revived?   QSS Gallery have their annual Christmas sale the same weekend from 11am tp 6pm. The Belfast Potter Market will move to the Golden Thread Gallery on Saturday, December 11. Not forgetting that Thursday, December 2 is Belfast Late Night Art where all galleries are open late to the general public.