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…..so 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvbicvrib14
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…….
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.
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…
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! …..