Northern Ireland news

Collection of unionist memorabilia and artefacts unveiled at east Belfast exhibition

Artist John Baucher who has spent the past 10 years collecting old flags, bunting and unionist iconography around Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Suzanne McGonagle

A COLLECTION of artefacts exploring unionist identity has been unveiled at a new exhibition in east Belfast.

From remnants of old flags and bunting to pallets and even the base of a lamp post from Sandy Row, hundreds of items are featured in the display.

Collected by artist John Baucher over the past decade, the exhibition 'Worship the Last Thread as a Relic', opened last night at the Vault Artist Studios on Tower Street.

Mr Baucher said the "exhibition is an attempt to start conversations".

Originally from Tandragee in Co Armagh, Mr Baucher and his family moved away from Northern Ireland in 1972, when he was just seven, due to the Troubles.

But later returning to Belfast after travelling the world, he has been working in the community sector for many years, with his exhibition a reflection of what he has seen, learned and collected.

"Slowly, but surely I have been gathering items over the years, some have been gifted to me and some have been re-purposed," he said.

"My thinking behind this is that there are many ways of looking at things."

He said the "multi-media exhibition of photography, video and small-scale sculptural assemblage" explores themes of emblems, identity, loss and remembrance in a "respectful and thought-provoking manner".

"It questions how meaning and resonance can be added to often overlooked and mundane artefacts in tribute and remembrance," he said.

Mr Baucher said among the items featured are "little flags that you would see children waving" as well as the "base of a lamp post from Sandy Row, re-imaginied and real bonfire blocks from the Shankill".

"There's also a pallet I came across as I walked home from Culture Night in 2017 that had the word UVF written on it," he said.

"I dried it for the past five years and it's part of the whole concept of re-purposing and re-imagining.

"There's also a 'designated days' calendar, which relates to the flying of the union flag outside city hall, I made it out of flag poles and it's in the exhibition too."

Mr Baucher said that the "exhibition is an attempt to start conversations" adding that he hopes that "by re-imagining and re-purposing overlooked and mundane items of ephemera" that people will "re-examine the items themselves".

He said he also hopes people will take the opportunity to" pause and reflect upon where we are as a country, what the emblems and symbols represent, and how they can best be remembered".

The exhibition is open until December 1.

Northern Ireland news