limin-alley in association with
9ft in common and liminal belfast

The Imagine! Belfast Festival is delighted to be able to support this innovative project which is funded by the Arts Council for Northern Ireland and Department for Communities. The project involves the creation of a series of artworks in alleys across Belfast during 25-28 March, together with an online conversation about the commission led by the partners on 25 March.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our relationships with public space across the city. The oft-neglected network of entries and alleyways between Belfast’s terrace houses in particular are underutilised spaces which hold great potential for civic activism as has been seen in community initiatives such as Wildflower Alley.

Our 2021 festival will mark the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown when for many Belfast residents, these alleyways became an important extension of outdoor space. In recognition of this and to spark a wider conversation on the future of these spaces across the city we have partnered with some like-minded thinkers already exploring these spaces to address this challenge via a cross-disciplinary commission.

Up to eight local artists and designers will be invited to select and respond to specific sites identified from an emergent Belfast Alley Map of the back-alleys across south and east Belfast. Obtaining residents’ permission where required, the artist/designer will use this site to showcase artworks, interventions, or design concepts for how these spaces could be used. Physical works should invite interaction/reaction from the public and/or the elements as they will remain in situ, unsupervised, across the second half of the festival, 25th – 28th March.

Festival audiences will be encouraged to seek out these showcases individually via the online map, exploring and engaging with these underused spaces in our city while doing so.

The real-world ‘trail’ of art and design exhibitions will be accompanied an online discussion led by project partners Amberlea Neely, Aisling Rusk and Meadhbh McIlgorm at an online talk on 25 March at 8pm, when they will share notes from their investigation into the unfulfilled potential of Belfast’s alleys as places for connection and rewilding in the city. They will share the emergent Belfast Alley Map, raising questions and sharing new ideas from near and far for what Belfast’s alleys could be, in a discursive platform.

The Belfast Alley map is being developed for the ‘9ft in Common’ project – an investigation about ownership, access, disruption and place. It uncovers the complexities and shares the possibilities of an infrastructure of urban alleyways, Belfast’s wild and liminal spaces. 9ft in Common is developed across the disciplines of art and architecture by Amberlea Neely (Starling Start) and Aisling Rusk (Studio Idir). It is funded by Necessity (SHED)..

Project facilitators:

Meadhbh McIlgorm: Meadhbh is an artist and producer who has been working in the creative sector in Belfast since 2015. She has a background in craft design and her work in influenced by the ephemeral. In 2020 she was awarded and ACNI Artists Emergency Grant towards the pioneering project Liminal [Space] Belfast, which sought to use the entries as alternative exhibition spaces. The project took place on October 25th and provided an opportunity for 6 artists to exhibit new work in this pop-up exhibition which brought high-quality art to a community setting and provided a Covid-safe outdoor exhibition experience amidst the pandemic restrictions.

Amberlea Neely: Amberlea is the founder of ‘Starling Start’ a creative practice and consultancy service. With more than 15 years’ experience working within Northern Ireland’s arts sector, Amberlea has been involved in the development of organisations like Platform Arts, Belfast Photo Festival and PLACE, which operated at the cutting edge of creative, intelligent and inclusive public engagement in the built environment in Northern Ireland.

Aisling Rusk: Aisling is the founder of ‘Studio Idir’, a design led architecture practice that flourishes in the in-between. She studied Art in Manchester before completing her studies in Architecture (with first class honours) in Aberdeen and Cardiff. Her PhD investigates spatial practices that build connection within the divided contexts of Palestine/Israel and Northern Ireland. She sits on the RSUA Council, and is the inaugural chair of RSUA Women in Architecture.

Images top image: Raquel Amat Parra, (next) Meadhbh McIlgorm, (next) Dónall Billings, (next) Jonathan Breanna. All photos Neal Campbell of Campbell Photography.