Plans for a £25 million regeneration project for Londonderry that will see the Foyle Bridge lit up with more than 12,000 illuminated ‘reed’ sculptures are to be formally unveiled today.
The 800-metre long sculptural installation is designed to work as both a landmark public arts project and an effective suicide prevention barrier.
It will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
Dubbed ‘Our Future Foyle’, the project encompasses a six-mile loop of riverfront along the banks of the river, with all three bridges adorned in some way.
One element of the project, titled ‘Foyle Bubbles’, will see a series of 40 ‘pods’ erected along the banks with the intention that they are used as commercial spaces.
These mobile ‘pods’ are depicted as futuristic-looking, semi-transparent bubble-shaped spaces in a similar style to the famous geodesic domes of Cornwall’s Eden Project.
Part of the plan is to use digitial technology to allow these 40 ‘Foyle Bubbles’ to light up in different colours, play music, interact with passers-by, and even answer questions from tourists with a set of pre-programmed ‘actions’.
Another part of the project will be a sculpture trail dotted along both banks of the river, dubbed the ‘Foyle experience’.
The over-arching ‘Future Foyle’ regeneration project has its origins in a 2016 review undertaken by the Public Health Agency that identified Northern Ireland’s high suicide rate and a “recent spike in incidents along the river”.
Brendan Bonner from the Public Health Agency explained: “Northern Ireland has the highest rate of suicide in the UK. The recent spike in incidents on the river has contributed to our strong desire to do something positive to help tackle this head on.”
He added: “Research into mental health shows that art installations which evoke nature can make people feel less anxious; another shows that that investing in places that have meaning to communities can result in a sense of pride in a neighbourhood.”
DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said: “I’m excited about what the future holds, and it’s something that we can all look forward to.”
The project has been included in a bid for a ‘city deal’.