Extramural Activity is a blog of murals, street art, and graffiti from the north of Ireland/Northern Ireland, particularly Belfast. There are occasionally images of other street “furniture”, particularly memorial plaques and stones. The goal of each post is to explain the contents of each image and provide some context, since it might come from a neighbourhood or a “side”, or have a background, or a history, that the viewer is not familiar with.

The blog serves as a database of images which is collated in the map along with other such databases. The map and the various collections of images provide the raw material that allows us and scholars world-wide to write on murals – their imagery, their history, their production, their materiality, and more. Why are there murals? Why paint in public? Who paints in public? Why aren’t murals signed and dated? How can Cú Chulainn be both a republican and a loyalist icon? Why haven’t murals gone away, now that there is peace? (In fact, there are more murals now than ever before.) And many questions about how murals have changed over time: Why does stenciling wax and wane in popularity? Why are a lot of pieces now done on boards and nailed to the wall? Where did the doves go in murals? When did Bobby Sands become an icon? Why are the some paramilitaries bare-faced but others hooded? And so on. For our own answers to a few of these questions, see What Is A Mural? and the Glossary, and especially the Visual History pages.

The name “Extramural Activity” was what came to mind, once it was clear that the obvious names/web addresses – such as “belfastmurals” and the like – were already taken. Many schools and council districts send out catalogues of ‘extramural activities’ or ‘extramural education’ to local residents, encouraging them to try such things as playing a recreational sport, learning a foreign language, or developing artistic skills. These classes take place at nights or on weekends, outside the normal working routine. And as a name for the blog, “extramural activity” conveys the idea that murals are to some extent an “outsider” activity: there’s the official line, the mainstream news, the point of view that comes from the top down, and there are the murals and graffiti on the streets, which have different sources and different perspectives. The names suggests that other things are being said, out there on the streets, that are important to the people who produced them and the communities they live in. The funding and production of murals by state agencies (from 2006 onwards) shows that earlier murals were successful in broadening the conversation which the state now wishes to control or at least participate in.

The name also avoids having to refer to a place — ‘Belfast’, say — which might suggest that there aren’t murals in other places and allows us to include images from elsewhere, even though we are based in Belfast. And if you wanted a name that grouped all of those places together, what would that be? Murals of Northern Ireland? Murals of the North of Ireland? Of the Six Counties? Ulster Murals? Every such title sends the “right” message to some people and the “wrong” message to others. If we became a site dedicated to republican murals, or to loyalist murals, we would triple our viewership overnight. If we were dedicated to street art, it would be even more. People love street art, perhaps more so around here because it’s not sectarian — that’s the reason we include street art on the blog: because it gives people another vision of the role that public art can play, though it’s not clear that street art is in any way superseding (political) murals. (See Visual Histories 10 and 11.)

Who (A Couple Of Bloggards)

Images: The photographer and photo editor is Seosamh Mac Coille. The primary camera is a Canon EOS 400D, typically with an 18-55mm lens, though sometimes with a 55-250mm. Also used is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm Sigma lens. And from 2021 onwards, an iPhone X.
For editing, Photoshop and DxO Viewpoint are used. Watermarking is a regrettable necessity of publishing photographs in the digital age; we apply watermarks manually – our goal is that the watermark should be invisible at a glance but obvious upon inspection.

Other contributing photographers:

  • Andy McDonagh/Eclipso Pictures (ig | Fb) is a professional photographer based in London-/Derry.
  • Peter Moloney. Peter is based in Derry and London, England but travels all over the north of Ireland to take photos of murals, memorials, police and military installations, and parades. He also collects ephemera such as posters and badges, some of which have been photographed by CAIN. Some of his recent photographs of murals appear on the Extramural Activity blog and his photographs of murals from previous years are (gradually!) being made available at petermoloneycollection.wordpress.com.
  • Sabine Troendle (web) is a photojournalist hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. She has published Texas Reliable News (based on photo-essays based on stays in and around Austin, Texas 2006-2012) and has recently completed a series of essays Belfast Reliable News (based on stays in Belfast 2018-2022).
  • Anonymous (watermark “squire93@hotmail.com”) is based in Portadown.
  • Paddy Duffy is based in Belfast. During the Troubles he worked as a British Telecom engineer, which allowed him to safely photograph murals in all areas of the city. His collection can be viewed at paddyduffycollection.wordpress.com .

Words: Cathal Woods writes the daily blog post and the Visual History pages. He also compiles the map. He is also editor of the Peter Moloney Collection – Murals and curates the Paddy Duffy Collection.

There are tens of thousands of hours in the Extramural collection, the Visual Histories, and the map. Please consider donating.

E-mail is the best way to contact us. Please write to extramuralactivity at gmail.com .

4 thoughts on “About

  1. Peter Moloney 2013-11-30 / 10:41 am

    It was delightful to meet up with you and Noel at the book launch on 21st November. There are a few books with mural references that might interest you.

    Art and propaganda. By Toby Clark. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. publishers. 1997
    Popular art. By A. J. Lewery, David & Charles publishers. 1988
    Ray Walker. By various authors. Coracle Press publishers. Circa 1985
    The murals of Brian Barnes. By Steve Lobb. Creekside Press publishers. 2013

    Best regards.

    Peter Moloney

  2. tony wilson 2015-03-20 / 2:16 am

    great site excellant photos. keep up the good work and keep them coming. the amount now been painted over and replaced by new ones its a good way to let people no about ulsters pride and past. when you think of northern ireland you think of great murals

  3. thorildor 2015-09-03 / 4:52 pm

    Really great website, thanks!

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