Thursday, 18th August 2011
YOUTHS STEP UP TO REFERENDUM CHALLENGE
by Alice Mascarenhas
‘REFERENDUM STEPS’ REVIVED: Street art and local history and sentiment combined yesterday as many took up the challenge to revive the Union Jack at Devil’s Gap Road.
Some 50 people responded to the call to bring back a touch of the past by re-painting the steps at Devil’s Gap Road. The volunteers, mainly young students, turned up at 7.30pm on Tuesday and wasted no time in bringing back to its former glory the gigantic Union Jack originally painted back in 1967 for the Referendum.
Organisers Carolina Silberman, Anjali Soneji and Tommy Finlayson who lives in the area told the Chronicle they did not want to see the past fade away.
“This is part of Gibraltar’s history, and we wanted to bring everyone together to show the pride of Gibraltar, united, working together, and keeping our history going for the future,” said Carolina Silberman who expressed it was also a good opportunity to use something like art and history to bring everyone together in the community.
There were many youngsters who had responded to the call but there were many of all ages too and from all walks of life. In fact the organisers admitted they had been overwhelmed by the response and enthusiasm.
“I think it will be very hard to get them looking like they did originally, all the walls were also painted, the whole area was decorated. Right now our aim is to at least restore the steps. We’ve already accepted we are not going to complete it in one day but we’ll continue over the next few days until it’s done,” Tommy Finlayson said.
All three agreed the Union Jack was the most important part which needed to be restored, and Anjali Soneji explained there was still enough on the stairs to work from but they had also relied on old postcards and photographs.
“This is our heritage it’s been there for years and we will restore it. We don’t want to forget it, its part of our history, it’s who we are as a people. We want to promote this to everyone else, not only ourselves, but the tourists who come and visit. If we can do this in other parts of Gibraltar that would be great,” she said.
Already there are ideas to extend the project to other areas of the Rock and get more people involved. This trio is more than happy to lead the way. With an election around the corner they are, however, keen to keep it all a-political.
Carolina Silberman insisted this was about a community working together. Building on that sense of community and saving our heritage.
“This is our message as well.
Tommy Finlayson looked upon this initiative as one of a series of projects in a campaign where other areas could be tackled as well.
“We want everyone to get involved to keep Gibraltar strong, it’s the pride of
Gibraltar, everyone coming together helping out as part of the overall community.”
As I walked around everyone with brushes in hand – with tubs of red, white and blue, the paint donated by The Paint Shop, there was a real sense of community and pride.
Denis Catania who has lived in the area since the mid-eighties and painted the area himself some five years back was thrilled to see so many people hard at work.
“It’s a great thing to remember, to see so many youngsters now that don’t even remember 1967, they weren’t even born, to actually be here because they feel it is important to maintain our heritage. It is such a nice thing to see.”
Stomp dancer Nathan Conroy was one of those who had answered the call and was busy painting.
“Every time I come back to Gibraltar it kind of saddens me a bit. This is the area I used to live as a kid and it’s a shame to see all the history that we have, all the Britishness we used to have going back in time, just seeing it all dissolve. For me it’s a bit of a shame. I’m trying to push for us to start doing that hill going up to the Police Barracks where there used to be that British Bulldog, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
Aimie Desoisa came along to help out a friend and was enjoying the whole experience as was Patricia Bacarisas who felt it was a fun project, sociable and also good for Gibraltar.
Chris Harris has walked up these stairs every weekend as a youngster always felt the steps were in a step of dis-repair and when he saw the call he immediately wanted to jump in and in the process learnt something new.
“Even though I’ve walked up the steps a lot, I never knew the political significance or anything, so what we are doing is really important.”
Sharan Chugani saw the pictures of the steps in 1967 on Facebook and felt it just seemed right to muck in and restore them with colour.
Daniel Brancato meanwhile believes the steps are a strong symbol of local heritage, “our history, our nationalism, our patriotism. I think it’s great that we’re getting together as a community and showing that we still have that community spirit that we had back in the days of the referendum and the closed border days.
“It shows that today the community is still very strongly proud to be British and also more than anything as a community we are all together doing something to regenerate our heritage.”
All hoped this would spur some sort of movement or organisation to help restore other areas of Gibraltar and some old and even new murals. As I spoke to the organisers and some of the people who had wanted to get involved the past was slowly coming to life… and the Union Jack in the middle section of the steps certainly felt right at home.