Derry has a high self-murder rate – though could redesigning a stream assistance a city?


In 1977, an orca done a approach adult a River Foyle in Derry in hunt of salmon. For several days a animal, that locals nicknamed “Dopey Dick”, was a rather doubtful indicate of village congruity – and a acquire daze from a bland assault of a Troubles.

Dopey Dick’s revisit was a unifying eventuality in an oft-divided city, says a engineer Ralf Alwani: “It brought people together.” Forty years on, a orca has valid inspirational in addressing a poignant plea in Derry today.

Northern Ireland has a top rate of self-murder in a UK. In Derry, a gift Foyle Search and Rescue was determined in response roughly 25 years ago in response to a array of lives mislaid to self-murder in a river; it assisted in some-more than 230 incidents in 2016 alone. A new spike in incidents on a stream has contributed to vigour to respond by a city.

The stream and a 3 bridges are a concentration of a Future Foyle plan led by Alwani of a Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design during a Royal College of Art, researching how pattern approaches can urge mental health and wellbeing in a city. “It is a source and a focal indicate of a city that has a county enterprise to renew, to reemerge from a dim past,” he says.

Alwani says interviews available with residents in 2016 about their associations with a stream suggested that Dopey Dick’s revisit “changed a perceptions of a river” as a visit site of tragedy. This anticipating valid a indicate of depart in a Future Foyle project.

With a assistance of internal artists, a group built a full-size reproduction orca to boyant down a stream as partial of Derry’s yearly Maritime festival and Halloween celebrations – an try to recapture a sorcery of Dopey Dick. “The response was amazing,” says Alwani. “We began to know how [Dopey Dick], entrance during a time of dispute for a city, still resonates as a certain memory.

“We schooled that a stream plays such a poignant purpose in a internal consciousness, so we began to consider about how a plan could do something identical by reanimating a stream in a certain approach – formulating what we wish will be a new, certain memory.”

Dopey Dick a orca done his approach into Derry in 1977. Photograph: Genevieve Leaper/Hebridean Whale/PA

The Foyle and a surrounding area is a widely used county space and source of honour for residents, generally given Derry’s success as a UK city of enlightenment in 2013. But researchers also found that it could mostly be a place of siege and darkness. “We wanted to see what interventions we could make that competence change people’s poise and emanate a clarity of frolic during all hours,” says Alwani.

A array of proxy interactive installations constructed with artists, musicians and students from Queens University Belfast were placed along a riverfront and over a Peace Bridge to urge how people intent with a space. Over a march of a four-day event, a group available 15,000 crossings – “more visits than many tiny art galleries get in a year,” says Alwani.

An artist’s clarity of a Foyle Bridge lined with 12,000 intense digital ‘reeds’. Illustration: Vizrage

With a support of a Public Health Agency NI, a group is now operative on permanent pattern interventions, a initial being a Foyle Reeds project, slated to be finished by 2020. In what will be a largest art designation in Northern Ireland, 12,000 digital “reeds” – with aluminium petals that pierce in a breeze changing colour as they detect a transformation of passersby – will line a existent separator of a Foyle Bridge.

The reeds, trustworthy to a existent balustrade, will change in tallness from 2.5–3 meters, effectively combining a earthy impediment barrier. “But some-more importantly,” says Alwani ,“they will change a atmosphere of a bridge”.

Research by a successful thinktank a Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health has shown that “mental health is closely compared with clever amicable connections” and that changing a feel of a place plays a role.

The researchers wish that pop-up pods during a Peace Bridge assigned by village and blurb groups will emanate a larger clarity of community. Illustration: Vizrage

Dr Layla McCay, a centre executive and an accessory highbrow of general health during Georgetown University in Washington DC, says investigate into this attribute – and how it could be most practical to urge mental health outcomes in cities – is ongoing. “One speculation is that installations that elicit inlet can make people feel reduction anxious; another is that investing in places that have definition to communities can elicit honour in a neighbourhood. The Foyle Reeds plan has elements of both of these theories.”

The second plan designed by Alwani’s group isthe “Foyle Bubbles”: 42 pop-up pod-like structures along a riverfront to be assigned by internal village organisations and blurb groups. In sell for a space, tenants would be compulsory to bear annual training in mental health support, initial aid, healing counselling and romantic wellbeing, environment a stage for what a group wish will be a “community-based response” to self-murder risks.

Alwani hopes that, with training, a occupants of a pods will be means to brand people who are potentially in crisis, equipping “everyday people to yield spontaneous support, but a clinical fear factor”. The Derry cab association Destined runs a successful scheme, formed on a same beliefs and saved by a Public Health Authority NI, where their drivers are lerned in mental health support. The pods, Alwani says, will grasp something identical by “creating a clarity of village congruity on a riverfront. Where people – generally immature group [who are overrepresented in self-murder statistics] – competence not travel into a GP, they competence speak to their coiffeur or tattooist.

“If people feel like they go to something afterwards they will see it as a opposite place.”

10 Sep is World Suicide Prevention Day. Find out some-more here.

In a UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email In a US, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, a predicament support use Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other general self-murder helplines can be found during

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