Penny art protest by Belfast street artist fined £80

Christoff Gillen with some of the pennies he used on his 'LOVE' artwork outside Belfast City Hall
Christoff Gillen with some of the pennies he used on his 'LOVE' artwork outside Belfast City Hall
Share this article

An artist fined £80 for writing ‘LOVE’ in chalk on Belfast pavements has created another artwork using 1p pieces at the gates of Belfast City Hall.

The pennies used in the artwork – which also spelt out ‘LOVE’ – had been collected by supporters of acclaimed artist Christoff Gillen from Belfast.

But now, after taking legal advice, he has decided “not to pay the fine for the moment but to challenge it legally”.

Mr Gillen, 45, said he wrote ‘LOVE’ on footpaths around Belfast city centre venues in chalk to highlight “discrimination against the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Questioning) community in Northern Ireland”.

But he fell foul of Belfast City Council when he was fined for defacing the streets of Belfast.

Mr Gillen said he received the fine on March 19.

“I received that letter around 4pm on that Thursday and I didn’t get to sleep until Saturday evening because I was so wired up about it,” he said.

“I am taking legal advice on this. It is about the principle and I believe I am the only person in Belfast to be fined in the last year.

“Other people write on the pavement. Some write inflammatory statements towards women and they have not been fined. It is ridiculous. All I did was try to spread the message of love.”

When asked about his claim, a spokesman from Belfast City Council said they “would not be commenting”.

A friend of Mr Gillen’s said: “He is going to mount a legal challenge and see whether or not they will rescind it. So at the moment he is not going to pay.

“The pennies were collected before he got this legal advice. But if the fine does not have to be paid it will go to a worthy cause which I think people will be happy with.”

And speaking to the News Letter from outside Belfast City Hall, Mr Gillen said his original artwork was not in response to the ongoing Ashers cake legal battle.

He said: “The reason why I wrote ‘LOVE’ on the pavement was to highlight inequalities for the LGBT community.

“Are gay people not welcome in Northern Ireland?

“I am gay but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. I am not representing anyone only myself and by doing that I am representing the LGBT community I suppose.”

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said Mr Gillen was fined for “graffiti under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2011, Part 4 (Graffiti and defacement section)”. He said the fine referred to “Painting, making marks (chalking) or displaying advertising on the road (or pavement) is classified as graffiti or defacement’.”

He said the fine was issued after a warden was told he intended “chalking the word ‘love’ 1,000 times across city centre streets” without permission.