Waiting for the Number 12

An exhibition of photography, poetry and film by Noel Connor

4-28 October • Vertical Gallery • FREE

The artist and poet Noel Connor was born and raised in West Belfast and as a child and teenager he would have frequently travelled into town on the number 12 trolley bus. Trolley buses were finally withdrawn from service in May 1968. For this project he tracked down and worked directly with the actual bus, number 246, which made the very last journey along his road. This extraordinary discovery of the only surviving working Belfast Corporation trolley bus in a small transport museum in the East of England provided the imaginative trigger for this body of work. Using film, poetry and photography, he explores why the number 12 bus from Casement Park to Castle Street features so conspicuously in his memory, examining how events on and around it capture a transition from childhood innocence into the realities of late 1960’s Belfast.

At the heart of his short film, ‘Lost Lines’ is an emotive ‘recitation’ of the city’s bus routes by his nephew, the actor Colin Connor. At times his reading is accompanied by footage of the ‘destination’ rolls which were mounted at the front and sides of these buses and which the driver and conductor cranked and changed with a small brass handle at the end of every journey. The long linen rolls, printed white on black in a crude forced font to fit the display box, listed every route throughout Belfast. One evening in 1972 Noel ‘salvaged’ from a burnt out bus a miraculously undamaged destination roll. At home he would cut off pieces and use the back of the stiffened linen as small canvases on which to paint, often copying from library books works by famous artists like Monet, Chagall, Cezanne and Modigliani. This was during a difficult last year at school and reinforced his hope to eventually study art at college.

The film and his series of photoworks also explore the incredible web of power lines and cables which once criss-crossed all routes across the city. Using image and sound he captures their simple abstract beauty and creates for them a symbolic significance as lost lines of connection and communication. Noel’s own words weave a narrative strand through all the imagery, producing evocative poems and sound pieces to create a further layer to his work.

Noel Connor has exhibited widely in Ireland and Britain and he has been involved in many collaborations and publications with poets including Gerald Dawe, Tom Paulin, Maura Dooley and Seamus Heaney. This project was initiated by his involvement in ‘Frontier Work’, a group show he was selected to contribute to at the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny and was developed further for a solo exhibition at the Gerard Dillon Gallery at Cultúrlann, Belfast.

For more information about the artist and all his previous exhibitions, publications and collaborations please visit his website www.noelconnor.com

The Linen Hall: Belfast’s Home of Poetry project has been kindly funded by the Arts Council for Northern Ireland