The Conservative Party has just won the elections under John Major. General Sir Patrick Mayhew is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Albert Reynolds is Taoiseach in the south of Ireland. Against the backdrop of continuing violence and civilian deaths, talks between the four main political parties are reconvened at Stormont.
Under the banner of Radical Arts Theatre, a group of artists created works to celebrate May Day in the Donegall Street area of Belfast: original compositions and recordings, theatrical backdrops, banners visual art projects, installations, outdoor music events with street stalls, indoor poetry performances and video production were undertaken. Those taking part were Máighréad Medbh, Gerry McGovern, Vivien Burnside, Liam de Frinse, Benjamin Zephaniah, William Ennis, Michael Baker, Dave Hyndman, Tom Bevan and Mark Alexander.
Artists opened their studios to the public allowing them the chance to look at the work as it was being created. “We’re working as a collective for the week in installations based on the May Day theme, I think the union of the public and the art went well together and helped bring it down to the street level.” explains Michael Baker, former electrician turn artist and sculptor.
“It isn’t always that easy trying to keep up with doing bits and pieces of art, but if you don’t do it you get dead guilty and you miss it, regardless what people think of modern art and all that kind of stuff, I reckon if you’ve been given a talent you ought to do something with it.” – Vivien Burnside Visual Artist
Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was one of the many artists in Belfast during the week. “I grew up in a tradition of oral poetry, performance poetry, when I write poetry I think of saying it to people, I have that in my head, the oral tradition is a lot older than the written one.”
“All during the week we are involved in different activities and generally celebrating the way we should do, getting away from the old Stalinist claptrap of celebrating May Day.” – Liam de Frinse, Visual Artist & Performance Poet.
Also featured is archive footage of the May Day marches as people gathered outside the traditional starting point at the Art College, before making their way along Royal Avenue, the main drag of Belfast.