Shandon the focus of Australian research on the impact of murals

Shandon the focus of Australian research on the impact of murals
‘Shawlies’ remembered and celebrated in a Big Wash-Up mural project in Shandon. Photo: Martin Purcell.

Shandon has become the subject of an Australian academic paper examining how murals in the area helped to reverse decades of stagnation.

The research carried out by Dr Tony Matthews of Griffith University in Queensland and Deanna Grant-Smith of Queensland University, focused on a local initiative called the 'The Big Wash-Up' in 2009 where murals were created by community members to celebrate the area's past using a technique called reverse graffiti.

The technique involves painting a black screed onto walls and placing a stencil over it, before power washing to reveal a monochrome mural beneath. The images fade away over time.

The project was driven by Cork Community Art Link and the Shandon Area Renewal Association.

Dr Matthews, a lecturer in urban and environmental planning, lived in Shandon for four years and the sense of collaboration and community spirit there prompted him to undergo the study, the results of which have been published in the Oxford University Press Community Development Journal.

Dr Tony Matthews who lived in Shandon for four years before carrying out his study on the 'Big Wash-Up' project.
Dr Tony Matthews who lived in Shandon for four years before carrying out his study on the 'Big Wash-Up' project.

"I know the area so well and am very fond of it. It's a great place, full of history and culture. It has so many stories to tell. It's unique in many ways and the kind of place people all over the world are interested in knowing about. The Big Wash-Up project was really innovative and brought Shandon alive in a new way. I wanted to tell people about that,” said Dr Matthews.

“The murals were really great for creating a visual reminder of the many characters in Shandon's history. They were a celebration and I think the residents of Shandon really enjoyed that. Designing and creating the murals involved many different members of the community working together on something unique.

“New friendships were formed, people learned from each other and discovered aspects of Shandon that they may not have known. It was a great community building initiative and Artlink did a wonderful thing for Shandon by designing the project,” he added.

Dr Matthews said the murals were a result of memories provided by older residents and the design nous of younger people in the area.

“The project couldn't have happened without the young and old working together. The mural images were based on the memories of older residents. Young people then helped to design and create the murals. It was a genuinely inter-generational effort with both groups playing equally important roles,” he said.

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