April 18 2018

In our latest ‘Opinion’ blog we share the thoughts of award winning Glasgow artist, Kelly Coyle, from an interview first published in the Evening Times in February 2018.

‘Torn’- An interview with Artist Kelly Coyle

East End artist Kelly Coyle’s ‘Torn’ portrait asks questions of society

An East End artist’s heartfelt warning about the dangers of passing on sectarian attitudes to children has scooped first prize in a competition run by campaigners.

Kelly Coyle’s photograph Torn was chosen as the winner of Nil by Mouth’s Pitch Perfect art competition held in conjunction with Glasgow Kelvin College During 2017 the charity, which was set up by former Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year Cara Henderson, worked with art students from the college to highlight the impact of sectarian behaviour on society.

The entries were judged by acclaimed Glasgow artist and leading member of the New Glasgow Boys Adrian Wiazniewski, who decided that Kelly’s piece conveyed the most powerful and dramatic message.

The 27-year-old, who lives in Bridgeton with her husband Jason and sons James, 11 and Jack, six, drew upon her own experiences of growing up in Glasgow for the artwork. The powerful photograph shows a young boy being pulled in different directions by those eager to ‘claim’ him as their own, with little thought to the child’s right to choose his own path in life.

Kelly explains: “My image was inspired by my life – I’m from a mixed family with one half Catholic Celtic supporters and the other Protestant Rangers supporters.

“This led to tensions growing up and I found myself in a number of situations where I couldn’t understand why one side of my family could attend an event but the other couldn’t.”

She recalls: “I used to ask questions – I saw the tension every week. When you’re a child you hear what people say are jokes, but you take them literally.

“In my art I wanted to convey how this impacted on me a child.

“Children have minds ready to be moulded and are often taught to hate by the tainted opinions of those around them, trying to teach them the way of ‘their’ colours instead of letting them chose their own.”

As a child, Kelly says, she liked hearing the music of the local Orange walks as well as watching Celtic play football.

“Why couldn’t I do both?” she says. “Children usually pick a football team depending on what their family support but what if their family support both?

“How does this impact upon them? It left me feeling torn.

“I hope my image can be used to highlight children’s mental health and how sectarianism can leave them feel shattered, broken and needing to “pick a side’.”

Kelly’s recalls when her sons were little, a relative wanting to bring them Rangers teddy bears.

“I remember saying, adamantly – you have to bring them Celtic ones too,” she says. “I didn’t want it to start. My boys like football, but they are more into basketball and parkour.”

Winning the competition has been a great boost for Kelly, who is hoping to concentrate on her art full time. Torn was recently unveiled at the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art where it will be on display to the public over the next 12 months thanks to support from Glasgow Life.

“It was absolutely brilliant to win, I couldn’t believe it,” she smiles. “I’m really proud of it. I hope when people see it, they think about what it means. It’s only when people start to see that football is just football, that we’ll be able to take the hate out of it and move forward.”

Nil by Mouth was set up by former Evening Times ‘Scotswoman of the Year’ Cara Henderson in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her friend Mark Scott as he made his way home from a football match in 1995. Since then the charity has delivered hundreds of workshops, events and programmes to tens of thousands of people right across Scotland.

Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said: “ We have always found that our most effective campaigns are those which harness the creativity and imagination of young people and the quality of the artwork produced by Kelly and her fellow students was fantastic.

“Torn is an extremely powerful piece of art which doesn’t seek to dismiss anyone’s religious belief or cultural background but instead asks the viewer to stop for a moment and consider the impact of our behaviour on our children.

“If we use sectarian words, chant sectarian songs or behave in a sectarian manner in front of children are we are passing on a positive version of our identity or are we simply encouraging them to hate others?”

Dave adds: “We are thrilled that Glasgow Life has agreed to display Torn over the next 12 months and we have no doubt that it will prove to be a popular and thought provoking addition to the fantastic collection at St Mungo’s Museum.”

Chairman of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, agrees: “This striking artwork will be used in our ongoing Glasgow: A Sectarian City? workshops, as it powerfully illustrates the difficulties that can face some young people who can be torn between different views within a family,” he says.

NB- This interview originally appeared in the Evening Times, February 2018

We hope you enjoyed reading this opinion blog and we welcome any feedback on the piece. Any feedback or offers of new writing for this part of the website can be emailed to: nilbymouth.campaign@gmail.com

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