“What makes you happy?” That was the first question we asked passers-by as part of A Belfast City Council’s public consultation. It was for a piece of work around public artworks along the Glider route running from West to East Belfast.
Often Public consultations can be tick-box exercises, or else they end up talking to the same vocal people from the same vocal community groups. Daisy Chain wanted to talk to the actual public, in public.
In two shopping centres and a community arts space we set up thee large pieces of paper. We had with us two overly talented artists and a multitude of markers.
What makes you happy?
What do you like about Belfast?
What do you want to see in a Belfast of the future?
Of course we got the cliches.. (because they are true). “My Family makes me happy”, “the best thing about Belfast is the people”. Beyond that we got lots of insight – fun amusing and personal – especially when it got to the question about an imagined future, where people really engaged, talking about homelessness, mental health, fears about Brexit…
We challenged the artists to illustrate the publics answers, or invited them to draw it themselves. “can you draw the Titanic?.. The Quarter, not the ship!” “The concept of friendship” “I like Unicorns!”.
On one occasion two women, whispered to me “what makes us happy is being British…” it was as much a question as a statement. Is this for us? Does our voice count? After a little conversation we decided to represent the concept of Britishness with a cup of tea with a union Flag on it (What could be more British?). Once it was done they said.. “we don’t mind if you want to put a Tricolour on as well… (what could be more Irish?) In the West, we had our questions written in Irish as well as English, and learned among other things the Irish word for ukulele.
The visual data was presented to a group of artists, who having gone through the same process, submitted ideas based on the public’s input for artworks for junction boxes along the route.
While her three children were drawing, one women noticed where someone had imagined a future without homelessness… she lent in and said quietly, “we used to be homeless..” And then she smiled.
It is true. The best thing about Belfast is the people.