Unique art project honours Derry's patron saint and breathes new life into historic area of the city

Wooden sculptures placed on gable walls of houses at St Columb's Wells

Unique art project honours Derry's patron saint and breathes new life into historic area of the city

Eddie Doherty, left, from the Housing Executive with some of the artists involved in the project.

A new art project in honour of St Colmcille, Derry's patron saint, was unveiled in the city this week.

The Re-Imaging the Wells project has been created as part of a celebration of events to mark the 1500th anniversary of the birth of the saint.

In 2013, as part of Derry's City of Culture years, the Eden Place Arts Centre took part in the Colmcille Wood Sculpture Project.

The original project produced 10 wooden sculptures to commemorate the life of St Colmcille and were displayed at Pilots Row Community Centre.

Eight years later these refurbished sculptures are now displayed at St Columb’s Wells in the Bogside.

With funding from the Housing Executive and the Department for Communities, and the support of local groups and residents, including Eden Place Arts Centre, Áras Cholmcille, Triax Neighbourhood Management Team (TNMT) & North West Regional College (NWRC), the sculptures have helped to transform the physical appearance of “The Wells”.

The artworks, individually, mark a significant element of St Colmcille’s life and each was produced by a separate wood carver.

Whilst each carving is a work of art in its own right, together they provide an overview, with accompanying text, of the life of Colmcille.

Displayed over three walls on bungalows, artists Desi McKinney, Aileen MacManus, John Stevenson, Jimmy Smyth, Connell McGinley, Liam Kennedy, Helen Shiels, Masoud Baghi and Johanna Kelly, all agreed that their works be displayed in the area.

Aileen Mac Manus, one of the artists, said: “When we carvers undertook this project in 2013, we never expected that it would become part of Derry’s tourist trail in 2021. It is a great honour for us all.”

Judi Logue, Eden Place Arts Centre Co-Ordinator, said: “I am absolutely delighted for The Colmcille Project to be relocated in 'The Wells' in this special 1500th anniversary year, where it will be widely admired by both locals and tourists alike.”

Ivor Doherty of Áras Cholmcille congratulated everyone involved in the initiative.

“This project will highlight the St. Columb's Wells location and attract people to visit.

“Aras Cholmcille wishes the project well, and maybe if you visit the Wells you might travel the extra 100 yards to visit Aras Cholmcille and the beautiful church of St. Columba at Long Tower.”

Eddie Doherty, Housing Executive Area Manager for Derry City and Strabane, attended the launch.

He said: “We were happy to fund this project and help generate some interest in our rich local history.

“The amazing sculptures add interest and bring a positive focus to the area, the local community here can be very proud of the work they’ve achieved.“

Colm Barton of the Triax Neighbourhood Management Team said: “I would like to thank the Housing Executive and the Department of Communities for making this project possible, the NWRC for their kind assistance and Judi, Liam, Aileen and Ivor Doherty for making it happen.

“Most of all I would like to thank the residents of the Wells and the artists involved for permitting us to make this proposal a reality.”

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