Home of Irish whiskey woos tourists with fake shops
By Cathal McNaughton
BUSHMILLS, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - One of the homes of Irish whiskey is fighting an economic downturn by investing in art projects to brighten up derelict shops and houses - an approach it says is boosting tourist numbers.
The idea of cosmetically enhancing villages in Northern Ireland, a British province still recovering from three decades of sectarian violence, gained much publicity before a meeting of G8 leaders there in June.
Bushmills, best known as the town where the whiskey of the same name was distilled for the first time 400 years ago, has taken the practice to an extent that the village is becoming recognizable for highly detailed artwork and graphics that brighten up its main street.
It is notable for the scale of the project - around a dozen vacant units have been given a facelift, including an old-style cobblers where a worker in a flat cap mends shoes. A bakery with appetizing bread and cakes is depicted up the road with a barber shop and bookmakers nearby.
Windows and doors have been painted on to empty houses, complete with people observing passersby outside. Elsewhere, Farmyard animals are drawn coming out of shop doors.
"Being a tourist village, there was quite a lot of emphasis put on trying to bring about an uplift and see could it be the catalyst for further economic development in the town," said Aidan McPeake, director of environmental services for the local council.
"That seems to be the case now, the village has been very popular this year. It's been very successful."
Two of the shops brightened up with art over the past year are no longer vacant, McPeake said. Continued...