Northern Ireland's Street Art

Amandeep visits Belfast, Northern Ireland's capital city, to find out how street art shows the city's difficult history and promises a brighter future.


Before you watch

Think about the following questions:

  • Why do people draw graffiti?
  • Does it ever have a place in the city?

Watch Amandeep as she goes to Belfast to see its famous murals.



Belfast is a lively and exciting city known for its music, nightlife and university.

But it was once famous for something which made headlines around the world. Years of conflict known as the Troubles left thousands dead.

One community, who are mostly Protestant Christians, wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. The other community, who are mostly Catholic Christians, wanted it to join up with the Irish Republic. People on the extremes of both sides used violence.

Fortunately, those days are over. But these murals are a reminder of the past. They can be found all over Belfast, painted on walls and houses.

The art showed support for one side or the other and symbolised a divided community. But now many murals are being preserved as an important part of the city’s history. I’ve come to meet Tim McCarthy.

Amandeep: Hi there, Tim. Hello, thanks so much for meeting me.

He has studied the murals and what they can tell us about the history of conflict here.

Amandeep: Tim, can you tell me about images like this?

Tim: Images like this are very common in working-class areas in Northern Ireland.

Amandeep: And what does it tell us about the history of the area?

Tim: Well, this particular community will have felt as if they were under pressure from the other community and therefore it contains a lot of defensive, militaristic kind of imagery.

Amandeep: And what about images from the other community?

Tim: You will find similar imagery, but the symbolism is very slightly different - a different use of colour but the content will be very similar.

Amandeep: And what is Belfast city like now?

Tim: Belfast is very different in the last few years. We’ve had a lot of investment, everyone feels better, feels more relaxed and a lot of the murals that are going up actually reflect this.


New murals are appearing in the city. Many people feel these new images are more appropriate for a community which wants to leave the violent past behind.

People have been working hard to achieve a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Many projects try to bring both sides closer together. Here at the Conway Community Centre, Tim is helping young people develop their skills and produce new artworks.

Young Woman: In Northern Ireland it’s very important for there to be an arts scene. Because instead of violence, instead of expressing yourself through alcohol or drugs, you can turn to the arts scene. It’s safe and it’s a good form of expression.

Young Man 1: I think street art is important for any city because it gives the city a kind of character.

Young Man 2: Without art in a country it would be very dull.

Tim gave me a lesson in his style of street art.

Amandeep: Tim, how significant is the street art scene in Belfast today?

Tim: Well, it is quite small, but it’s growing all the time with the help of the internet obviously. People can see what’s happening globally and they want a little piece of that on their doorstep.

There is a saying that art reflects society. People here are glad that the new art murals reflect a more prosperous and peaceful Northern Ireland.

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Average: 5 (1 vote)
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Submitted by ADELE on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 14:59

Hi Thank for this podcast i've learned a lot about the history of both countries, how they souffered because of their respective religious affiliation. Know it's ended but they are countries nowadays where they're souffered for this type of conflict and nothing is not enough doing to resolve this.
Profile picture for user Kostya B

Submitted by Kostya B on Wed, 19/09/2018 - 20:00

People drawing graffiti because they do want to express their feelings, emotions by this way. Graffiti can be in city, but I think that it should not be drawn on walls of old historical buildings with beautiful architecture therefore it can be drawn on the walls and panel buildings of course if this graffiti is worthy and beautiful.

Submitted by ogroz on Fri, 12/01/2018 - 21:44

Dear Teachers! Thank you for your work, these podcasts are as interesting as a good way to improve English. Could you please answer the question connecting with Northern Ireland Street Art podcast. In this podcast, Tim from Belfast said: "..this particular community will have felt as if they were under pressure from the other community..." I understand the meaning but I didn`t get the grammar. Why didn`t he say just felt as if they were...? Why did he say "will have"? Everything seems in the past for that situation and conflict. It doesn`t seem as a causative clause for me either. Thank you in advance for the answer. Oleg

Hello Oleg,

We often use 'will' for prediction and this may be about the future, of course, but it may also be about the present (He left work an hour ago so he'll be at home by now) or the past (He left work at midday so he'll have arrived home at least an hour ago).

The difference between ...the community felt... and ...the community will have felt... is that the first is a statement of fact and the second is a prediction or speculation by the speaker. The use of 'will' makes this clear.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by omardad on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 12:04

Dear Teacher i joined this page for the english learning two years ago, now i started the learining again with it and tested my english level so this is the point marked for my initial it is rather good and well prepared to my level hope to know your consultation to mine.

Hello omardad,

Welcome (back) to LearnEnglish! Please take a look at our Getting Started page, which will give you some guidance on how best to use the site. Our Frequently Asked Questions page has advice on specific aspects of English (speaking, writing etc), which should be helpful too.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team