In recent months Free Derry Wall, not for the first time, has been the cause of some controversy in the city. Debate has raged over who owns the Wall, who should own the Wall and the uses it has been put to in recent years. Now, as part of the Bloody Sunday Weekend, the Bloody Sunday Trust & the Rossville Historical Society have produced a photographic exhibition, being displayed in Pilots Row, that might shed some light on these burning issues.
Freedom's Wall, a photographic history of Derry's second most famous wall, will be launched in Pilots Row Arts Centre on Wednesday, 24 January, at 7pm by Derry Mayor Cathal Crumley. Members of the family of the late John `Caker' Casey will also be in attendance.
The exhibition will provide the people of Derry with a unique opportunity to view the evolution of Free Derry Wall from the hastily sprawled graffiti of January `69 (much loved by Eamon McCann) to the proposed national monument that it is today (much loved by Cllr Sean Gallagher). Indeed, as debate continues to rage the public will have the chance to revisit previous controversies the Wall has been central to. The 1992 Bloody Sunday Rainbow and the repainting of the Wall red by local artist Colin Darke in 1994 were two previous occasions which created much discussion.
The Battle of the Bogside, Bloody Sunday, the Hunger Strikes of 1980/'81, the British Army's early attempts at an environmental improvement scheme with the aid of a `stolen' armoured car, the release of Johnnie Walker and Derry lifting the Sam Maguire have all left their mark on Derry's second most famous Wall.
Jim Collins, on behalf of the organisers, explained that with the current discussions concerning the ownership of Free Derry Wall, the opportunity existed for a fuller exploration of the symbolism of the Wall and the role it has played over the past three decades. ``You Are Now Entering Free Derry was a highly political message in 1969 and this exhibition features many of the equally political uses that the Wall has been put to since then,'' he said. ``As the current debate continues, this material will enable people to judge that discussion in the light of the history of Free Derry Wall. Indeed, in a highly innovative venture, we are providing people with the opportunity to record their own views on what the Wall means in 2001, and what role it now has to play.''