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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Shaun Keenan

Friends and family 'strip bare' for exhibition in memory of Derry man who 'touched hearts'

Derry man Emmette Dillon touched the hearts of "so many" from across the city before he sadly died by suicide in September last year.

The 33-year-old was last seen leaving his apartment at 12.15am in the Crawford Square area of Derry on September 3, 2021 .

In loving tributes following his death, people from right across Derry and beyond paid their respect to the "sweetest human" and "such a kind wee person".

Read more: Derry Féile to celebrate 30th anniversary with 'biggest year' ever

Back in 2015, Emmette encouraged people to check for signs of cancer as part of a campaign as he lost his mother to the illness when she was only 45.

The Derry native was the driving force behind the LegenDerry Naked Charity Calendars which help raise money each year for Foyle Hospice and Macmillan Cancer Care.

In 2018, he vowed to bring Northern Ireland's "mental health epidemic" to the world stage after being selected to take part in a global beauty pageant.

Following in his legacy, a new project aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues has been organised by good friend Tommy White, a photographer, and local make-up artist Emer McLaughlin in memory of Mr Dillon.

The exhibition, which stems from Emmette's calendar idea, opens exhibition on Thursday, August 11 in aid of Foyle Search and Rescue.

Speaking to MyDerry , Emer said: "I was put in touch with Tommy through a friend and I was asked why don't I get involved and the Shipquay House the space for free because they knew what we were doing.

"We had seven or eight people show up on the first day and they would sit with me while I did their make-up, or they would sit and have a chat, and obviously they were very nervous about stripping bare.

"They were taking part because they wanted to highlight mental health or maybe they were doing it because they had suffered from their own mental health struggles or someone they knew.

"When Tommy began putting sneak peeks out of the exhibition online, that's when more people began to reach out and wanted to get involved."

One of the exhibitions sneak peeks (Tommy White)

She continued: "Tommy has a home studio and he invited people along and we did it from there over the course of six months.

"And now we're really looking forward to the exhibition. It's taking place in the Guildhall on August 11 from 7pm to 9pm and it's open to the general public with free admission.

"We had a meeting with the Mayor of Derry and when we told her what it was she was more than happy to help us out by giving us the space that we needed.

"Aware NI, Foyle Search, Arce Fitness and Rescue, Men’s Action Network, First Housing and Foyle Haven will all be in attendance. There's no point having discussions about mental health if we don't invite the people helping people in the city daily along to have their voices heard and how they can help.

"We'll be helping to fundraise for Foyle Search and Rescue on the night because they helped bring Emmette home when his family was in need. They're a brilliant charity and we wanted to do our bit to give back.

"Emmette touched the hearts of so many people in a really positive way and the stories that you hear when you're involved in a project like this give you an idea of the sort of person that he was."

You can find out more information about the project can be found on Instagram at @StrippedBare101 or on their Facebook page HERE.


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