80ft mural created by young people from Tullyally, Currynierin, Bogside and Ballymagroarty

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An 80 foot piece of graffiti art created by young people in Londonderry and Strabane will go on public display this week to mark the beginning of a major arts festival in the city.

The city is set to host ‘Release the Pressure’, a graffiti and mural arts festival (July 25-26) with renowned graffiti artists travelling to the city from all over the world.

The free event is hosted by local social economy enterprise, UV Arts.

In and around Ebrington Square, UV Arts will host several spectacular visual art demonstrations including the painting of a double decker bus, an afternoon of minecraft workshops with CultureTech at Eighty81 Creative Hub, and much more.

With other sites across the city, Londonderry will be transformed by vibrant, urban graphic designs imagined and created by some of the world’s most talented graffiti artists.

They include Mark Bodé (San Francisco), Bonzai (London), Vyal One (Los Angeles), Yesbee (London), Erin Yoshi (Hawaii), Drax (London), Rask (Dublin), MSC (Scotland), DLA One (France), BTS (Finland) plus many more.

But on Thursday night the spotlight will be on 50 young artists from Tullyally and Currynierin, Strathfoyle, the Bogside, Strabane and Ballymagroarty who have engaged in a collaborative project of an 80ft mural, funded by the Housing Executive.

The teenagers are putting the finishing touches to the murals, which will be showcased in Ebrington Square during the festival and throughout the month of August.

Their project is aimed at building positive relationships among youth culture and addressing current issues, including hate crime, sectarianism, youth engagement, community cohesion and urban regeneration.

The groups have been working together over a hectic three week schedule, participating in exciting graffiti and street art inspired workshops, creating art that is non-political and promotes creative expression.

During the festival, which is supported by Ilex, the young people will have the opportunity to work with and meet the international artists.

After the festival, the young people will return to their areas where they will begin planning for a permanent mural, in consultation with their own community.

Jennifer Hawthorne, Head of the Housing Executive’s Cohesion Unit, said: “We are delighted to support such a cutting edge festival, ensuring that young people from all communities can take part. Some of these communities are on the fringes of the city and can at times feel excluded. By taking part in this initiative it is our hope that not only will good relations be established but that all communities will feel part of this.

“This project aims to reduce hate crime, encourage shared environments and create a sense of belonging by the changing of space and place around our communities.

“It will also serve to change the perception of mural art and graffiti in Northern Ireland and celebrate the future of modern and contemporary non-political murals as a tool for social change.”

Caoimhín Corrigan, Ilex’s Director of Ebrington added: “Release the Pressure is a great event for the young people in our city. It was first held during the City of Culture year and we are delighted to support UV Arts, to carry on the 2013 legacy and attract artists of the highest calibre to Ebrington, with this exciting festival”.

Karl Porter, of UV Arts, said: “A project of this nature will have the ability to engage some of the hard to reach areas of the city and outlying areas. It can provide an exciting alternative to those who may be disengaged with the education system, at risk of offending or reoffending.

“This is a legacy project for these young people, who through the medium of art, can help to celebrate cultural diversity whilst being involved in a festival that builds confidence, personal skills and development opportunities including essential life skills.

“After the event, we hope that by encouraging the changing of space through a creative and highly engaging outlet we can help to build confidence, encourage pride within the community and create a colourful link across several communities within Derry city and in Strabane.”

The public is invited to immerse themselves in street art culture by witnessing the live art demonstrations being held throughout the weekend. There will also be chances to meet the artists.