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Social impact of IRA Docklands bombing

7 April 2017
Social impact of IRA Docklands bombing

A greater understanding of the personal, political and societal impact of the 1996 IRA Docklands bombing has been documented thanks to a new exhibition created by a King’s researcher.

Dr George Legg, based in Liberal Arts, worked with London-based artist Lucy Harrison, whose work looks at sites and communities in the midst of change, to create Not a Split Second; Remembering the Docklands bomb, an exhibition featuring a film showing victims and their families speaking out about their experiences for the first time.

As well as looking at the impact on people, the exhibition examines the way that architects and planners responded to the damage. It also recognises the changes to the Docklands that were prompted by the bomb and that are still going on in the local area. Dr Legg has also produced a short essay about the bomb’s social, political and architectural impact, forming part of an exhibition guide which also contains extracts from interviews with survivors and archival images.

As South Quay Plaza is currently undergoing a major redevelopment, we felt that the memory of this explosion and its impact on the local community and surrounding architecture needed to be recorded,’ says Dr Legg. ‘Working with an artist helped to ensure a visual and oral record of this traumatic event, but it was also vital in helping to map the personal meaning people form with the spaces they inhabit.’

The detonation of the 3,000-pound IRA bomb claimed two lives and injured 40, marking the end of a 17-month ceasefire, but it is now seen by many as pivotal to the negotiation of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. By combining interviews with those most closely affected by the blast and still images sourced from planners, victims and local authority staff, Legg and Harrison present a close-up view of how such extraordinary events impact ordinary lives.

‘Most of those caught up in the bomb that day were not the well-paid city workers that people may imagine,’ says artist Lucy Harrison. ‘The victims were newsagents, security guards and cleaners. They are still campaigning for adequate compensation.’

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Images: courtesy of Tower Hamlet’s Archive.

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