A recent phenomenon in Northern Ireland has been an all show and no substance approach to imposing visual veneers on the commercial cityscapes of run-down parts of the city. Many of these initiatives have been initiated prior to a major tourist or public interest event both in small towns and in key arterial routes into the city. For example, the G8 summit in rural County Fermanagh initiated a government-backed campaign of covering over empty shop fronts with fake printed facades in order to present an impression of thriving commercial activity to the world's press. Similarly, the 2014 Giro D'Italia cycling race routes were a key government priority for the same visual cleansing treatment while the world's sporting press broadcast images of Belfast worldwide. Often, disused and decaying shop fronts are covered over by imagined facades displaying static commercial activity via lettering and images. This has the bizarre effect of creating an environment in keeping with movie sets like The Truman Show or Pleasantville. This paper draws on primary photographic evidence and other academic and government sources to illustrate the phenomenon of commercial artificiality in socially deprived areas of Belfast and compares and contrasts pre- and post-façade applications as a way of showing the impact of government-backed visual cleansing.
- Belfast, city, signage, fake shopfronts, urban, social, cultural, photography, Troubles, architecture, global brands, reimaging,