| BUSHMILLS, Northern Ireland
BUSHMILLS, Northern Ireland Aug 30 One of the
homes of Irish whiskey is fighting an economic downturn by
investing in art projects to brighten up derelict shops and
houses - an approach it says is boosting tourist numbers.
The idea of cosmetically enhancing villages in Northern
Ireland, a British province still recovering from three decades
of sectarian violence, gained much publicity before a meeting of
G8 leaders there in June.
Bushmills, best known as the town where the whiskey of the
same name was distilled for the first time 400 years ago, has
taken the practice to an extent that the village is becoming
recognisable for highly detailed artwork and graphics that
brighten up its main street.
It is notable for the scale of the project - around a dozen
vacant units have been given a facelift, including an old-style
cobblers where a worker in a flat cap mends shoes. A bakery with
appetising bread and cakes is depicted up the road with a barber
shop and bookmakers nearby.
Windows and doors have been painted on to empty houses,
complete with people observing passersby outside. Elsewhere,
Farmyard animals are drawn coming out of shop doors.
"Being a tourist village, there was quite a lot of emphasis
put on trying to bring about an uplift and see could it be the
catalyst for further economic development in the town," said
Aidan McPeake, director of environmental services for the local
"That seems to be the case now, the village has been very
popular this year. It's been very successful."
Two of the shops brightened up with art over the past year
are no longer vacant, McPeake said.
The Northern Ireland government has spent 2 million pounds
($3 million) to tackle dereliction over the past two years and
stickers were applied to windows in areas near the luxury golf
resort where G8 leaders met to give the impression that business
But the "Brighter Bushmills Project" was set up by locals
last year and supported by the local council, which is among the
least well-funded in the North.
They raised 30,000 pounds, some of which was donated by the
local distillery, and the shopfronts depicted are more detailed
and colourful than elsewhere. A second phase, developed with the
help of government funds, was completed in March of this year.
As a gateway to the Giant's Causeway, the famous collection
of interlocking rock formations considered a World Heritage
Centre by the United Nations' cultural agency, Bushmills hopes
the initiative will make sure the tourists keep coming.
"Obviously locals would much rather see the properties
filled and in use all the time but this is definitely the next
best option," McPeake said.
($1 = 0.6437 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin)