Local artist brings new life to old police riot shields

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Since the start of The Troubles in the Province, riot shields have been used by police officers for protection - but a local man has decided to use them for a different purpose, claiming that every shield has a story to tell.

Coleraine artist John Johnson got his hands on unwanted riot shields, some dating back to the sixties, when the old Coleraine Police station was being knocked down.

He decided to ‘recycle’ the shields, many with scuffs, dents and cracks, and use them to paint on.

“I first got my hands on the shields about thirteen years ago, when the old Coleraine police station was being knocked down,” explained the talented artist.

“The police found loads of old riot shields discarded for years in the basement.

“I offered to recycle them, and I’ve been painting on them for a few years now.”

Many of John’s creations have been exhibited internationally, and he says that people don’t often realise what they actually are.

“They all have a story to tell,” says John.

“It’s funny when you tell people what they actually are, they are amazed.

“The early shields are very flimsy compared to the shields that today’s officers use.

“They have been controversial down through the years, but we have seen in more recent times how they have saved lives. I just thought they would make a great canvas. I’ve painted about 20 shields so far, and they each look very different.”

John’s Dunmore Street gallery is currently displaying some of his shields - they range from Celtic horses to a painting of Dunluce Castle. There’s also an image of a rioter throwing a petrol bomb.

“There has been no shortage of subject matter through The Troubles,” said John. “These shields are part of our history, and each has their own story to tell.”

The first shield that John painted depicts one of our best known landmarks Dunluce Castle. He tells: ““I chose the castle as , like the riot shields, it is steeped in history, and of course is an iconic landmark.”

John has auctioned some of the shields and raised money for charity down through the years, one of his first shields was actually auctioned for a Children’s Hospice and Police Federation charity. If you would like to view the shields contact John at Reflections Gallery/studio, or email john@reflectionsgallery.co.uk