Best place to be…

Yesterday’s Observer magazine carried an interesting series of opinion pieces on which part of the “British Isles” *ahem* is the best suited to your lifestyle. Best place to be a parent, famous, fashionable, green (Bristol, apparently), an artist, etc, etc.. Determined as they obviously were to hit every demographic I looked through to see who is, allegedly, best suited to live here. Belfast, it seems, is the best place to be ‘young’. Well, they don’t know any better, do they?

The article sets the scene [you’ll have to scroll past the Bristol entry to find it though] –

Belfast was a byword for sectarian and rain-streaked urban misery. While the rain remains, things are looking up in every other way for the next generation which is benefiting more than any from the ceasefire agreements of the late Nineties.

At the last census, Northern Ireland had the youngest population in the United Kingdom. Belfast has a population of 600,000, one in 12 of whom are students at Queens or Ulster Universities. There are cultural festivals throughout the year. Northern Irish pupils consistently achieve the best results at GCSE and A-Level, a highly educated and motivated population are taking control of their lives.

Rents are low enough for young people to afford and vast amounts of EU and Westminster money have got the economy booming. New hotels and businesses are springing up. The £750m Laganside development on the banks of the River Lagan has brought thousands of jobs.

A recent Europe-wide survey found Belfast residents were more content with their lives than those of any other UK city.

Personal testimony in support of the motion is provided by a law student at Queens –

My generation is less interested in talking about the Troubles. Everyone’s got friends from both sides of the sectarian divide, and we’re completely tolerant of each other. Talking to people who’ve been away and come back they say it’s got so much better in so many ways.

Belfast is a constantly changing city, but it’s undoubtedly cool.

Maybe.. but the best place to be young? Really?

  • maca

    “Everyone’s got friends from both sides of the sectarian divide, and we’re completely tolerant of each other” – this particular student must be part of the Friends of Cannabis group.

  • peteb

    Careful maca.. he is training to be a lawyer.

  • Davros

    How can one train to have a character defect ? 😉

  • Emmett

    An article for the optimists out there.

    Belfast a population of 600,000? At the last census it was half that – has Belfast really grown so much in 3 years??

  • groucho

    Best place to be young? Sadly, I’m too old to comment. But it must be soooo much better than when I was young….city centre closed by gates at night…running for the last bus at 10pm etc etc.

  • peteb

    Better than it was, groucho, is not the same as “best place to be”.

  • Ziznivy

    Bizarre assessment with our archaic licensing laws and streets crawling with glue-sniffers. Places like Leeds and Cardiff our much superior.

  • joanne

    Huh, well I’m young and I can’t wait to leave. I don’t know anyone my age planning to live here long-term. Those of us who haven’t gone off to uni in England or Scotland already are busy plotting our escapes.

  • peteb

    Ok, joanne, so some young people don’t know any better ;o)

  • Fraggle

    ‘Belfast is a constantly changing city, but it’s undoubtedly cool.”

    Cool my ass. Belfast is the least cool large city in Ireland. Galway is cool. The sooner I leave the better.

  • Fraggle

    but then again, galway wasn’t in the survey.

  • Beowulf

    I feel genuinely sorry for those who are oppressed by archaic licensing laws and streets paved with glue sniffers. Truely this ‘Belfast’ place must be awful.

    I’m also shocked to hear that you have to ‘escape from Belfast’, Snake Pliskin style, rather than walk out of your own accord. It’s heart breaking. I salute your fortitude in the face of such barbaric conditions.

    Please someone let me know where I can post my bleeding heart to help aid you in your suffering.

  • willowfield

    Isn’t Galway full of crusties?

    Joanne

    Why do are you so eager to leave?

    ziznivy

    Belfast’s licensing laws are better than Cardiff’s, are they not? The pubs don’t shut at 11 here.

  • Davros

    Galway is a tourist trap.

  • James

    Galway is that endless series of roundabouts on the way to Connemara.

  • joanne

    >Why do are you so eager to leave?

    I’ve lived here all my life and I’m bored. Bored of small towns and small minds, bored of nothing ever really changing, bored of people who are apparently unwilling to drag their asses into the 20th, never mind the 21st, century. I’m not denying that Northern Ireland has good points or that Belfast these days is a much better place than it was a few years ago. But there are plenty more interesting places in UK and I’d rather be in one of them instead.

    Also, may I remind certain people that when you set up a website to extol the virtures of Northern Ireland and can’t manage to keep it up for more than a few weeks because you’ve run out of things to say, you’re not really in the position to criticise anyone else for wanting to leave.

  • Mario

    I think is good to see a young man having love for his city. I applaud him. There is beauty everywhere and surely, a lot of the young people find Belfast a fun place. Surely if there are that many young people than it must be fun for them. I think that if you go to England you are bound to meet plenty of people from south London who want to “escape”. Yo may find them in New York or even here in Argentina, though to be fair most Argentinians want to leave for economic reasons not boredom. My anscentors left Atrim more than a hundred years ago, but I am sure they left for economic reasons. I think that as the economy improves in NI you will soon discover that it will be one of the most attractive places in Europe. As long as those racist attacks dont continue to make the headlines.

  • Ziznivy

    Willowfield, Belfast’s problem is the lack of any late-licences granted past 1.30am of which Cardiff has plenty.

  • Donnie

    “Willowfield, Belfast’s problem is the lack of any late-licences granted past 1.30am of which Cardiff has plenty.”

    Wasn’t it a great idea to get everyone on the streets at the same time?! Get Home Safe. Lucky to get home at all!

  • maca

    I like Belfast, nice city although the amount of bad experiences I have heard would wipe it off any list of nice places.

    “Belfast’s problem is the lack of any late-licences granted past 1.30am of which Cardiff has plenty”

    How is that a problem? God know there’s too much drinking going on on this island already.

  • Donnie

    Maca it means people just go out earlier to get bladdered. If you want to get hammered, you’ll get hammered whether you have all day to drink or only a couple of hours. The problem with an across the board closing time is it kind of kills any club culture or aspirations of ‘cool’ Belfast might have had. I think adults should be allowed the choice.

    I’m not advocating around the clock boozing (I think it is a bad idea in our context) but I think staggered closing times of 1 for pubs, 2am for bars with entertainment and 3am for clubs would cause less harm. That way the whole of Belfast isn’t emptying onto the streets at once literally fighting for the same taxis and places in the queue of the kebab shop.

  • Davros

    Killing club culture – I would regard that as a good thing.

  • maca

    “bladdered” – there’s a new word for my slang dictionary 😉

  • Donnie

    “Killing club culture – I would regard that as a good thing.”

    Me too but not everyone is over the hill like us 🙂 Give the kids a chance!

  • Davros

    At the risk of being labelled an old fogey – what was it that cad Mick Hall called me ? – the club culture has absolutely nothing going for it. Drink, Drugs, Violence,Sleaze, girls getting raped after drinks get spiked … to be honest I don’t think club culture gives kids a chance.

  • willowfield

    joanne

    I’ve lived here all my life and I’m bored. Bored of small towns and small minds, bored of nothing ever really changing, bored of people who are apparently unwilling to drag their asses into the 20th, never mind the 21st, century.

    That’s a strange attitude, given that we are living through unprecedented change at the minute. Belfast’s changing more than any other city you’ll go to in the UK: so you’ll be in for a disappointment if you go looking for somewhere else that is changing.

    But there are plenty more interesting places in UK and I’d rather be in one of them instead.

    Such as?

    Ziznivy

    Willowfield, Belfast’s problem is the lack of any late-licences granted past 1.30am of which Cardiff has plenty.

    Agree on that. But for the average person who just wants to go to a pub and not stay out really late listening to loud music, Belfast is better – although we could do with more so as to make them less crowded.

  • Panda

    .” Belfast’s changing more than any other city you’ll go to in the UK”
    Agreed, I was back in May for the first time for a while and was amazed at how much even in a couple of years certain areas had changed.
    I brought my partner, a “mainlander” European with me and as we were thinking of moving back, I thought I would show her the worse side, so that she would make the decision with her eyes open.
    So having seen where I was brought up,the teenagers out of their heads by 7.00 on a Friday, various “interface areas” and the crappy public transport(outside Belfast) what was her reason for not setting up shop in NI?
    She reckoned the middle-class housing in places like Bangor and the suburbs of Belfast was so boring and uniform that she could not imagine living in a “snob ghetto”(her words) for more than a week before she’d be on the valium.
    Strange how outsiders see things differently.

  • joanne

    Actually, I don’t think we are living through “unprecedented change” here. We’re always supposedly living through change, but what is actually different? Yeah, Belfast’s improved, it’s a nicer city to look at than it was a decade ago, but it’s still racist, homophobic and a good 20 years behind every other UK city in attitudes towards social and political issues.

    I’m not particularly wanting to go somewhere that’s changing – I, personally, just need a change. I think two decades in the same town is enough to give anyone itchy feet. I plan to move to London – not because I think it’s going to be a perfect place to live, but because out of all the cities in the UK, it just happens to suit my own circumstances (have friends there, the kind of jobs I want are more attainable there, etc.) best.

    On preview, seeing Panda’s post – heh, guess insiders see things differently as well! 😉

  • groucho

    Joanne et al,
    All young people should leave Norn Iron – even if only temporarily – to broaden their horizons. The worst thing about living here is the colour of the sky…grey, grey, grey.

  • willowfield

    joanne

    I’m not particularly wanting to go somewhere that’s changing – I, personally, just need a change.

    So one of your stated reasons – “tired that nothing’s changing” – isn’t, in fact, a reason.

    I think two decades in the same town is enough to give anyone itchy feet. I plan to move to London – not because I think it’s going to be a perfect place to live, but because out of all the cities in the UK, it just happens to suit my own circumstances (have friends there, the kind of jobs I want are more attainable there, etc.) best.

    You’ll get bored of London, too. Especially all the travelling and the expense of it.

  • Donnie

    “Yeah, Belfast’s improved, it’s a nicer city to look at than it was a decade ago, but it’s still racist, homophobic and a good 20 years behind every other UK city…”

    Every city in the UK has problems with all of the above. Belfast is certainly no worse than large swathes of London, Liverpool or Glasgow for instance.

  • Davros

    London is a hell-hole.

  • peteb

    Wiilow

    Samuel Johnston is reported to have said – “If you are bored of London, you are bored of life”.

    Not that I necessarily agree.. but he is also reported to have said that “The Giant’s Causeway is worth seeing, but not worth going to see” – which is closer to the mark.

    Davros

    Sounds like you need to change out of those pyjamas ;o)

  • Davros

    8 years in London Pete …. hateful place.

  • maca

    “8 years in London Pete …. hateful place.”

    Stayed in a place near London, lovely little town. Think it was Farnborough or Farnham, can’t remember. Nice spot though.

  • joanne

    Oh, I know that parts of London are “hell-holes” as you so eloquently put it, but I also know that larger parts of it aren’t. Though that is the provincial attitude I expect to get when I say anything bad about Northern Ireland.

    Oh, and willowfield, I am tired that nothing’s changing here, but it’s not my main reason for wanting to leave. I never said that it was. My main reason for wanting to leave is that I want the kind of freedom and independence I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have here (for reasons entirely personal and unrelated to NI). I don’t think that’s at all unreasonable of me.

  • Davros

    Joanne – I lived in what would be regarded as “naice” parts of London, not the worst parts.

  • willowfield

    My main reason for wanting to leave is that I want the kind of freedom and independence I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have here (for reasons entirely personal and unrelated to NI). I don’t think that’s at all unreasonable of me.

    Not at all – makes perfect sense – but that’s not what you said earlier!

  • Donnie

    She must be going to become a ‘glamour’ model.

  • Fraggle

    maca, aren’t Farnham and Farnborough full of drunken violent squaddies? Guildford certainly was. I lived there for a year and while the PLACE was very pleasant/picturesque etc., a lot of the people were narrow minded and racist and Guildford was a scary place at night. London is VERY different to the towns outside London. I liked visiting as it was vibrant and multicultural. It is fearfully expensive though.

    Good luck to you Joanne, I know exactly how you feel about NI. I’m experiencing it all again after coming back.

  • willowfield

    I’ve lived in Scotland and am a regular visitor to England. Can’t really see much difference in quality of life between Belfast and many other cities in the UK.

    Some cities have better nightlife but as you get older that becomes less important.

    Belfast has most things you need/want and cheap travel to places that don’t have what you need/want. It has relatively cheap prices and cost-of-living and friendly people.

  • maca

    Fraggle
    “aren’t Farnham and Farnborough full of drunken violent squaddies? Guildford certainly was. I lived there for a year and while the PLACE was very pleasant/picturesque etc., “

    I visited Guildford as well. Can’t remember which town it was exactly but one of those towns is very nice. ‘Twas just a brief stay though and I liked it.

  • joanne

    >She must be going to become a ‘glamour’ model.

    Er, no. But it’s nice to know that that’s all you regard me as capable of.

    And willowfield, I never gave just one reason for wanting to leave – there are many reasons, some of which I’m willing to be open about and some not.