Fire of Peace

Helen Marriage (LF ‘13) has used art and spectacle to change the way people think about the places they live, work and play. The recent success of her London-based creative company, Artichoke, was the Lumiere light festival in the Northern Irish city of Derry~Londonderry last winter, which attracted over 350 thousand people. Underneath this work lies a more ambitious mission: to confront the longstanding divisions that prevent coming together as a community in Northern Ireland. Now she has a new big idea and her medium is fire.

You can bring her new project to life by participating in the Kickstarter campaign.

While the conflict is officially over in Northern Ireland, religious and political divisions remain and are stoked by longstanding sectarian traditions. One manifestation is the building of giant bonfire pyres in both communities.

Marriage aims to turn the sectarian tradition of bonfires in Northern Ireland on its head with “Temple,” a peacemaking project inspired by Burning Man, the annual event that takes place in the USA. In March 2015, Artichoke will bring California artist David Best and his “temple crew” to Derry to build a giant temporary artwork on a 12-acre site due for redevelopment.

Best is renowned for his soaring, ornately carved temples, which are ceremonially burned at the end of the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert and have become symbols of recovery and renewal.

The towering Derry “Temple,” an original design of intricate fretwork, laser-cut from recycled plywood, will be visible across the whole city. Artichoke will work with local partners to offer apprenticeships, a back-to-work scheme and training opportunities for youth, technology school students and unemployed builders.

Visitors will be invited to visit the finished pavilion over several days and use it as a space for contemplation and remembrance, where they can leave mementos, messages and photographs.

At the end of this period, “Temple” will be ceremonially torched by those who have built it, a powerful cleansing gesture to commemorate loss and promote moving forward. Marriage expresses her hope, “that the burning is a catalyst, a catharsis, a kind of renewal, and phoenix-like, new hope and new life is born out of those moments.”

Artichoke is fundraising for the Derry “Temple” project with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Watch a video about the project and donate.

Cover image by Philip Volkers: Temple of Juno, 2012
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