A novel way to look at art in Shankill Library

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IMAGES: Two of the photographs by artist Sarah Maple


Report by Una Murphy 

“It’s great to see an art exhibition like this on the Shankill Road”, says Ellie who grew up in the area and works for a charity.

London-based artist Sarah Maple and children from the Shankill contributed to the You + Me exhibition which runs in the upstairs gallery at the Shankill Library until August 28.

It is part of Belfast’s Golden Threat Gallery project with local libraries funded by the council’s Good Relations and the Community Relations Council.

Sarah Maple uses photography such as the ‘princess’ motif in this exhibition to explore identity. Up to a dozen local children were encouraged by local artist Sara Morrison and librarian Anne Spiers to think about taking on roles as as chief executives and doctors as part of the exhibition.

The feminist artworks feature Sarah dressing up as a Disney ‘princess’ and photographed in traditional male environments.

My favourite was Belle in a ballgown screaming at the ref from the dugout – a fairytale football manager. In reality the job of a female football manager is a tough one as shown at French club former coach Helena Costa who walked out after 49 days to be replaced by Corinne Diacre. Costa was the first female coach appointed to a professional men’s club in the two top tiers of any European Football league.

Anne the librarian and an artist herself said that the children who contributed to the exhibition had attended three workshops using Sarah Maple’s photographs and dressing up surgeons and executives.

“After a while of looking at aspirational role models the children wanted to be doctors and teachers and not celebrities”, Anne said.

Ruth Graham from the Golden Thread Gallery said: “I think Sarah Maple thinks she can change the world. Her photographs were an inspiration for children from the Shankill.”

Manager Mark Knowles said the upstairs gallery at the Shankill Library was once a museum and may have once housed the Egyptian Mummy – now seen in the Ulster Museum.

From Egyptian Mummy to Disney Princess the Shankill Library is taking story-telling to a whole new audience.





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