Belfast artist Christoff Gillen has been fined £60 by the council for “defacing” the city by writing the word “love” on the pavement in chalk. He did this to highlight discrimination against LGBTQ people in Northern Ireland.
People have gathered at the City Hall in solidarity with their pennies in order to “pay” the outrageous £60 fine imposed on local artist Christoff Gillen.
Christoff intends to pay his fine by delivering 6,000 1p pieces to the City Council. Before he does that, Christoff and his supporters decided to find out how beautiful the word “LOVE” is when made up of 6,000 pennies.
“It’s scandalous in a city plagued by hate to fine some one for writing “love” on the pavement…. this is clearly a homophobic gesture”,
said Unison activist Nathalie Donnelly, there to support Christoff with a delegation from the union.
Christoff was fined under a piece of legislation that is rarely (if ever) used. He was fined for “defacing” the streets of Belfast. He was doing a piece of performance art where he was writing the word “LOVE” multiple times around the city in chalk. The piece was designed to highlight the discrimination being faced by LGBTQ people living in Northern Ireland. From the denial of equal marriage to banning gay men from donating blood, to politicians supporting businesses who discriminate against gay people – it is clear that discrimination against LGBTQ people is rampant in NI.
“It’s part of an approach to public space that’s very petty and very heavy-handed, and ultimately means that the only kind of art we end up with is really sterile and vacuous”, said artist Siún Carden.
Instead of embracing art that challenges homophobia, the City Council has provided a perfect example of it. Everyone knows that businesses, anti-choice groups and music venues often write messages on the pavement in chalk on Belfast’s Streets. None of these appear to be targeted by Belfast City Council. Many people believe that Christoff was the victim of the very homophobia that his art was attempting to highlight.
“Belfast is a city that is scarred with racist graffitti and sectarian graffitti, and has been for a number of years, and only one person has been fined”, said Barbara Donnelly, who helped organise the penny protest.
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