Derry’s woman civil rights activists reflect

Derry’s woman civil rights activists reflect

On display in a Kent gallery are 20 papier-mache effigies, the voices of Syrian former prisoners, and Derry women who marched for civil rights.

All are among this year’s nominees for the Turner Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious art awards, the winner of which will be announced on Tuesday.

“I got a phone call from my cousin who lives in England, ” says Ann Donnelly, one of the Derry women. “He said he had gone into a gallery and saw this film set in Derry, ‘and then suddenly your ugly mug came up’.”

A lifelong trade unionist, Donnelly had been involved in protests over the lack of housing and jobs in Derry even before the watershed moment of the city’s first civil rights march in October 1968.

Now 72, she was one of a number of women interviewed by artist Helen Cammock as part of her film The Long Note, which uses archive footage and modern recollections to examine the involvement of women in the civil rights movement in Derry 50 years ago.

Commissioned by Derry’s Void Gallery, the film was exhibited there and in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin, and is now in the Turner Contemporary in Margate alongside the other shortlisted works.

“People ask me what did we achieve” says Donnelly. “In my honest opinion, it’s better slums.”

The slums of the 1960s are much in evidence in Cammock’s film. In the Bogside, children play in the street outside rows of tiny terraces, the houses packed together in the shadow of the city’s walls; nearby, the newly built Rossville Flats tower into the sky.

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