The Derry Peace Temple

It’s far too long since I last blogged, and it’s been four months of real highs and lows….It seems I need to put a wee bit of distance before I blog about all that… here’s an intermediate blog about the Peace Temple in Derry.


I only heard about the project last Wednesday, but it took me no time to decide to go up for the burning. In the past I’d dreamed about going to the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert, whilst thinking it was not likely that I could ever go, and now the Californian Burning Man artist, David Best, had been brought to Derry to design the Peace Temple, in honour of people who had died in The Troubles.

Catholics and Protestants came together to work on the project, and I felt a palpable sense of unity, both at the site and around the town.  Community groups and schools also got involved in contributing and building it,  and in the first week of it being open to the public many thousands of people had visited, and left mementos to lost loved ones. Other hurts and troubles were also commemorated, with hundreds of photos and writings.

This is a wee clip about the making of it on Youtube, and there’s more there.

The project was two years in the planning, and over 100 individuals worked on the build.

Derry is known as the city of five hills, and it was a fair walk up to the Temple. It is also a city of many spires; the Temple was visible from all over the city, and was lit from within after dark, with a wonderful backdrop of the far hills, the city lights below, and the spires of two cathedrals and many other churches.


Inside, the lattice effect was awe inspiring…with this wonderful chandelier hanging from the pinnacle.


Below that there was an Altar reaching up to the chandelier, and covered in messages.


I made the three hour drive up to Derry on the Friday, the last day that people could go inside the structure. There were thousands of people at the site that day and there was a very warm and reverential atmosphere…it reminded me of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The laser-cut lattice work panels of birch plywood completely covered the heavy construction beams, and gave a  wonderfully airy feel to being inside……looking up to the heavens, where all the pain and loss would be released to.

All around the top were circles inside squares, with cut-out words and images, which came from local community groups and schools.



Derry people are very friendly, and I had many conversations around the town; many local people were saying that it shouldn’t be burned. A newspaper reported that an older woman had met David Best and said “I can’t believe you are going to burn it down. That seems awful”, to which David replied “It seems awful to have that much pain and sadness and not to have a place to put it.This is a way to get rid of that pain.”

Here is an poignant book wrapped in ribbon…


…and a message of hope from a young lass:


Under the awning, and around the whole structure, there were small constructions where people could pick up pieces of wood to inscribe..




One of the pieces I put into the Temple, a photograph with writing about my birth parents…….


(I’ve just watched a half hour long programme about the Temple, on RTE1, and the presenter picked my picture from among thousands, and read out the writing on it….”In memory of my beloved parents who died far too young, when I was 2.1/4 and 3.1/4 years old. I carry you with me, but I SO wish I had known you. Charlie.” And yes, I did tear up when my piece was read! There was definitely a huge acknowledgement of and healing of sorrows ….for so many involved.)
Here’s a photograph of Francis, the big love of my life, who died 23 years ago, and wee sticks remembering my other beloved friends that have passed away.


Sundown on the Friday, when over 27,000 people visited the site….in total there were over 60.000 visitors, with over 25,000 visitors for the actual burn.

The Night!

I was told that the family of a young man who had committed suicide a year ago, amongst other people, were chosen to light the temple with six or so torches…


The photo’s aren’t great, because in the dark I couldn’t see  how to change the aperture…I’ll need to practice that one. It was a cold night, but mercifully dry and not windy….and when the temple went up the heat was joyous!


The billowing and swirling smoke was like souls rising from the fire….with tiny red sparks running through the smoke…

The final embers…..

A wee video, and you’ll find more and better clips on this page!

Readers of my past blogs will know how I’m learning to ‘let go’, there was one thing that I was going to put in the Temple…but I didn’t. However, the whole event was so cathartic, and so creatively inspiring, that I’m now pondering on building a small temple of my own….with a few more things in it! …..

17 responses to “The Derry Peace Temple

  1. What an incredible project and one I would have heard nothing about without your blog and photos! The spire was so beautiful and fragile looking and yet it seemed right somehow that it would be set alight. I can only imagine how moved you must have been to find your parents picture and your note featured on the news report. So nice to have you back in the blogasphere my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the Welcome Back! I’ve been mulling over a blog about my time away, for ages, but can’t get the right balance between the highs and lows since I got back….and too much over-explaining…And a dear friend managed to wipe out hundreds of photo’s from my travels…(N.B. ALWAYS download yr own photo’s!).
      But meanwhile I had this awesome (not a word I use loosely!) trip…hopefully this blog will get me back in the blogosphere….xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hadn’t heard of this. What a wonderful healing project. It looks magnificent but must have looked even more so as it burned in the darkness. Quite fitting really as so many hurts, secrets and pain are kept in the dark. Fitting to release them once and for all into the darkness of the night.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Charlie, what a powerful experience for you to be part of – I’m so glad that you heard of it in time to be there – and to share it so beautifully with us. Thanks, too for including a photo of our parents – fitting for them to be there with you. What a delicate and beautiful structure – and a good way for healing to occur. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charlie this is beautifully written an put together it has really moved me what a wonderful project. I m so glad i came across it thankyou for sharing your experience x


    • Thank you so much, Jenny! The Peace Temple still resonates with me….I’m doing a huge, much needed clear out here, and fantasising about building a wee temple of my own, to ‘let go’ of endless papers, pictures, letters, photo’s, etc….maybe for my next birthday party! (Hang on a minit, I don’t DO birthdays! Well, I’ve 3 years to go until a big one!). x


      • Charlie i ve been thinking about it all day i know alot of people who need a temple maybe we all need one . I sent it on to my mum. I hope you make your temple and it helps you. Thanks again jenny
        Ps i am joey and betty sassoon s grand daughter i came and did some carving with you many moons ago when you were in kbt x

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Wow! I remember Joey and Betty very fondly! Ashamed that I don’t remember teaching you…but as ye say…many moons ago! (A friend said the brain is like a bookshelf…eventually it gets so full that books just fall off…or as Homer Simpson said “every time I put something new in my brain, it pushes an old thing out!” Are you still in KBT? I came to see Freda Lewis last November….a real trip down Memory Lane! If ye’re ever over in Ireland, do let me know…I’m about 3 hours south of Belfast. xx


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