One Town Successfully Hides Its Neglect With Fake, Lively 'Storefronts'

Bushmills covered up its abandoned buildings with happier scenes. And apparently, it's working.

Bushmills, Northern Ireland, is long on whiskey history but short on economic growth. So it's turned to storefront art to give its prominent but neglected buildings a much needed jolt.

The town of 1,319 is most famous for hosting the oldest licensed distillery in the world (Old Bushmills Distillery). But in recent years it's started to gain a reputation among tourists for posters that depict lively shops and happy people where there are neither. And while the "Brighter Bushmills Project" may seem like an attempt to hide the city's current state of decline, the town's director of environmental services says the strategy has worked, telling Reuters that two storefronts from the project are no longer vacant.

The concept is not unique to Bushmills. In Lyon, France, artists re-imagined blank walls as scenes of idealized urban life in the 1980s. Closer to home, the Northern Ireland government spent $3 million to disguise neglected buildings near the golf resort where G8 leaders met last summer.

Bushmill's storefront project has been mostly funded by locals, who raised over $45,000. A second phase, this time with partial funding from the government, was completed last March.

Below, via Reuters, a look at some of Bushmills's fake, but happier storefronts:

A man stands in front of an empty building, which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
A family walks past an empty building, which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton) 
A boy rides his bicycle past an empty building which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
A detail of an artwork is seen in the window of a empty shop in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
People stand next to an empty building which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
A woman walks past an empty building which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton) 
A man walks past an empty building, which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
A man stands in front of an empty building, which has been covered with artwork to make it look more appealing, in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)
A woman walks across a street in the village of Bushmills on the Causeway Coast August 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton) 

About the Author