Londonderry burns wooden temple to mark the Troubles, 40 years on

David Best is known for his temples at Burning Man

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The Independent Online

Nearly 15,000 people gathered in Londonderry on Saturday evening to watch the spectacular burning of a 72-foot, intricately hand-carved wooden temple to celebrate peace in Northern Ireland.

The structure was built by the US artist David Best, a Californian who is well known for his temples at the Burning Man festivals in Nevada.

Over the past week, more than 60,000 people had visited the temple, which was placed on a hilltop on the Protestant east side overlooking the River Foyle, to write messages to lost loved ones and other words to remember the Troubles and peace in the country.

The temple was then burned on Saturday, a symbolic gesture in Northern Ireland where bonfires are usually a sign of community division. Yet Best was called to Londonderry to help mend relations between Protestants and Catholics. Neither side can even agree on the name of Northern Ireland's second-largest city. Protestants call it Londonderry while Catholics prefer to name it Derry.

"It's not a war memorial, or a mausoleum," Best said on Saturday night. "It's a place for celebration."

Among those watching the bonfire on Saturday night were relatives of the 13 people killed in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Best's only worry about the project was that the temple would not burn at all due to the damp weather.