Sandy Row self starting festival…

Interesting development in Sandy Row last night. A small scale festival kicked off for the second year, on a megre budget of about £4,000 raised largely from local business. It was opened by the SDLP Mayor Pat McCarthy and attended by a range of local representatives, including the local MP Alisdair McDonnell. Although the area is served by about 30 different community groups, the festival is intent on engaging the whole of the local community. It is precisely this kind of low level engagement that saw the beginnings of the Irish language movement in Belfast. The key is in continuous engagement. In 1995 Gerry Adams advocated the setting up of Gaeltacht quarter. It took ten years to establish, but eventually it came to fruition through long term engagement and in proving the idea.

The DUP’s local councillor, Christopher Stalford notes, “The findings of the Taskforce report on the area, show that there is still an enormous level of social deprivation and need within the local community and government must start to address that – one way of doing so would be to develop and expand this festival through higher levels of funding than has been the case up until now”.

That the pump priming has come from local business too is potentially a good sign too. For all the compliants that there is too much public money slushing around in the NI economy, there is also a challenge to the private sector to step up to the mark and invest smartly in Northern Ireland’s human capital. As the Coin Street development in London’s south bank shows the combination can lead to powerful win win outcomes, and create confidence in otherwise marginalised communities.

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  • TAFKABO

    Sounds good.Here’s hoping the inclusion of the SDLP Mayor sets the tone.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Mick

    Just one point of clarification. Last years festival was supported nearly totally by local business leaders. This years is getting some support from the NI Events Company.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Rurning to the point in hand: I as delighted that Pat came down to open the event and the launch was so well attended – well up on last year. It looks like being an even bigger success than last years. Congratualtions must go to the organisers who have managed to lay on so much with so little by way of resources.

  • seabhac siulach

    What is the festival about? It is not mentioned.
    Something to do with the fact that all the curbs on Sandy Row have recently been given a fresh lick of Blue, Red and White paint?

  • TAFKABO

    Mick.

    Your site is fucked if you don’t do something to stop the rot.

  • Mick Fealty

    Very small scale SS. tea dance for pensioners, local awarding winning cheerleader group. It seems to be very close to the community’s diverse interests.

    It’s the kind of thing that generally runs under the media radar, but worthy of note for the reasons outlined above.

  • seabhac siulach

    TAFKABO:

    “Mick.

    Your site is fucked if you don’t do something to stop the rot. ”

    Not sure if your comment relates to what I wrote…however, it was an honest question…what is the festival about…what is its main theme? (don’t festivals usually have one?). Is it related to the whole ‘Orangefest’ idea (hence the comment on the curbstones)?

  • fair_deal

    TAFKABO

    “Your site is fucked if you don’t do something to stop the rot.”

    Furthering opting out/decline of Unionist comment will only make it worse. Silence won’t open the rather closed minds nor outdated stereotypes and attitudes of many of the republican and nationalist commentators.

  • Mick Fealty

    I hear what you are saying Taf… and I agree with you up to a point.

    SS’s comments are frivolous and (dare I say it) sectarian. But then again there is no need for people to get side tracked into fighting non battles. The more people stick to what they know, the stronger their arguments will be.

    I thought this comment on the Guardian was appropriate response to a similar petty sectarian provocation there:

    1. Develop and nurture a dislike the English
    2. Invent “facts” to justify this dislike
    3. Gloat

    Insert unionists for England and you are in the same territory. Sadly. Except that we do get some good conversations, I would not be averse to switching off the comments for a week or two, just to wash out this kind of petty sham attack out of the discourse.

  • TAFKABO

    seabhac siulach

    It just seems to me that there is an element within the site that takes every positive and tries its best to turn it into a negative.
    Micks news was smallscale in someways, but also positive.
    Your comments about kerbstones seems designed to steer the conversation into yet another rant about the ills of Unionism.
    Now I could ask you what you intentions were when you made that post, but I don’t want ths thread to be sidetracked, so I’ll ask you another question instead.

    Don’t you agree that it appears to be a step forward to have an event which seems inclusive and unrelated to other community events which accentuate our differences?

  • seabhac siulach

    “SS’s comments are frivolous and (dare I say it) sectarian. But then again there is no need for people to get side tracked into fighting non battles.”

    I’m sorry but this is outrageous…nothing I wrote was sectarian…I was merely asking a question about the festival. We all know the 12th is coming up and my comment on the curbstones was related to that…I wished to know if the festival was related in some way to other festivals (i.e., the 12th) at this time of year. I would say that some of your commentators (and yourself?) are overly sensitive to a silly comment on a thing I noticed…that the Sandy Row have recently freshly painted the curbstones there…
    Now, how is that sectarian? I make no comment on anything related to protestantism…merely an observation…
    I am many things but sectarian is not one of them and I do not appreciate the slur on something I wrote in good faith…

  • seabhac siulach

    “Don’t you agree that it appears to be a step forward to have an event which seems inclusive and unrelated to other community events which accentuate our differences?”

    Yes, I do, of course…however, I repeat…it was an innocent comment of mine and not likely to lead to ‘Prod-bashing’ from this quarter…

    “Your comments about kerbstones seems designed to steer the conversation into yet another rant about the ills of Unionism. ”

    How could that be when I can read and see that an SDLP mayor and MP attended…not the usual attendees at orange events. It was this fact that prompted my question….sheesh…
    No where was the theme of the festival mentioned.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Fair_play,

    Silence won’t open the rather closed minds nor outdated stereotypes and attitudes of many of the republican and nationalist commentators.

    Ah. So that’s what you’re trying to do!

    Starting from such a clearly prejudiced position, I doubt if you will ever succeed. Can I suggest that you;

    1. Examine whether your own community has ‘rather closed minds’,
    2. Examine whether your own community has ‘outdated stereotypes’,
    3. Examine whether your own community has outdated attitudes,
    4. Open your mind to the possibility that the nationalist position might have equal validity to yours.

    I have to say that you do, at least, try to put over the unionist case, but my experience is that you fail to see (or acknowledge) the nationalist case very often. But if you think that your time here is going to ‘convert’ anyone, I suggest you reconsider, if not your goal then at least your approach.

    Seabhac siulach’s post was actually very reasonable. Mick failed to link his intro to any source, but yet managed to quote from Christopher Stalford. Now maybe we’re getting spoiled here, but I think that we are right to expect some more (and verifiable) information on a story like this.

  • fair_deal

    SC

    “So that’s what you’re trying to do!”

    One of things yes.

    “Starting from such a clearly prejudiced position”

    How exactly is that prejudiced? Am I supposed to believe that nationalism and nationalists are perfect?

    “Can I suggest that you;…1. Examine whether your own community etc”

    I am well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the community I am from and what needs to be addressed. However that does not mean subscribing to the nationalist wishlist which largely seems to involve the Unionist community sitting there, told to say nothing, do nothing and waiting for the allegedly “inevitable unification”.

    “4. Open your mind to the possibility that the nationalist position might have equal validity to yours.”

    I do not believe in the equality of ideas, some ideas are better than others. I believe Unionism is a better idea than Nationalism otherwise I wouldn’t be a Unionist I’d be a neutral or a nationalist.

    I always liked the phrase, “if the facts change, opinions change” If I am presented with a good argument I move, if I am not I don’t.

    “But if you think that your time here is going to ‘convert’ anyone, I suggest you reconsider, if not your goal then at least your approach.”

    I never said I expected anyone’s ‘conversion’ instead hope to encourage some fresh thinking.

    “”but my experience is that you fail to see (or acknowledge) the nationalist case very often.”

    Who is trying to convert who?

  • Prince Eoghan

    SS.

    TAF is a guy whose opinions I have a wee bit of time for. I agree with you that he is a tad sensitive today.

    What I want to know is how can this be flagged as inclusive, if held in the sandy row. We have Unionists raise concerns legitimately, about feeling slightly intimidated by a few Celtic tops/Tri-colours on Paddy’s day. How would neutrals never mind Nationalists feel about a festival in flag infested sandy row.

  • kensei

    “Insert unionists for England and you are in the same territory. Sadly. Except that we do get some good conversations, I would not be averse to switching off the comments for a week or two, just to wash out this kind of petty sham attack out of the discourse.”

    The Unionist discourse here could said be just as poor. I’ll refrain from examples because it will help nobody, but it seems to go unchallenged, while Nationalists and Republicans get it in the neck.

    That said, Taigs needs to tone it down somewhat (I think he is in every single topic atm) or STFU.

  • Alan

    Or perhaps we should just feel some encouragement that small scale changes are making a difference. It wasn’t so long ago that other SDLP councillors were being attacked in protestant areas of South Belfast.

    Someone needs to write the history of the Feile in terms of its acting as a catalyst for the development of the community in many nationalist areas. It is good to see local people taking the initiative – more power to their collective elbows.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m sure the comment was tongue in cheek, and I have no doubt there is a sense of humour deficit in Northern Ireland discourse but as it says near the bottom of the Grosvenor Road… Ni mar shiltear a bhitear… (things are not always as they seem)…

    That doesn’t stop people from rushing in the gap and filling it out with stereotypes… I’m not going to censure anyone for that (I’d have to be on here all day)… if it’s not sectarian, what is it?

    As for the story, it was a small story, no online references, just a press release… no website… budget presumably doesn’t run that far…

    For all I know it is just the kind of small scale good story that gets left because it doesn’t fit grand narratives…

  • seabhac siulach

    Mick

    “… if it’s not sectarian, what is it?”

    Are you again suggesting that what I wrote was sectarian? That is an outrageous slur unworthy of you.
    So a comment on kerbstones is sectarian now, is it? Ridiculous…
    So, if someone commented that in West Belfast a tricolour was flying during Feile an Phobail, would that also be ‘sectarian’? What nonsense is this?
    Is it sectarian to relate blue,red and white kerbstones to orange events close to July 12th? I cannot see how. I made no comment on the value or otherwise of the event or any comment on Protestantism, merely stating an observation and trying to link it to reasons for the festival.
    Perhaps, my initial comment was not expressed in the best way (too subtle?), but to continue to allege that my intentions were sectarian (AFTER MY EXPLANATIONS) really is taking the piss.

    As Queen Vic used to put it, ‘I am not amused’

  • Christopher Stalford

    Some of the comments here are really very sad.

    Here we have a deprived working-class community, pulling together to lay on a programme of events, which for the benefit of those who asked, does include some Orange-style events, but principally does not, in order to bind their community more closely together and increase confidence and all they get for their efforts are pathetic questions about kerb-stones.

    Come on people, just because it’s in a Unionist area doesn’t mean you have to switch into attack, attack, attack – mode.

  • Mick Fealty

    SS,

    I simply asked what it was, if it wasn’t sectarian? A joke, yes, I can see that. But there was nothing in the report above that implied the painting of kerbstones, except the words ‘Sandy Row’.

  • Padraig Óg

    Mick

    Do you not think that the ‘sectarian’ slur was a bit too much against seabhac siulach? Surely a bit of (IMHO warranted) scepticism/cynicism when it comes to any celebration by a predominately unionist/loyalist area cannot be be blindly labelled as sectarian?? Can it??

    So does ANY criticism or cynisicm of ‘the other side’ now render us all sectarian? Sorry but I don’t agree with you on this one. Seabhac siulach’s comment was a fairly innocuous one which has been jumped upon. I have seen far worse on this blog which often go untouched sadly enough.

    p.s I wonder will the Nigerian/Chinese/Eastern Europeans of recent racist abuse be putting out the bunting?

    Now was THAT comment ‘sectarian’?

  • TAFKABO

    Surely a bit of (IMHO warranted) scepticism/cynicism when it comes to any celebration by a predominately unionist/loyalist area cannot be be blindly labelled as sectarian?? Can it??

    I am staggered by these comments, for what is sectarianism if not this?

    All Unionists and anything celebratory related to them is to be immediately viewed with suspicion, but that’s not sectarian?

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree it was innocuous. No question. I’m not censuring him for it either. Not all sectarianism is dangerous. A larger community at ease with itself, would simple laugh and move on.

    However, look at the blog post above, and then look at the conversation arising. The implication above is that Republican areas have been well served by building social capital from the ground up, and this appears to be an example of a Unionist area doing likewise.

    Yet there has been little comment on any of this.

    Many of the assertions since have entirely ignored what was written above and began (however playfully) to make up ‘facts’ of their own. It wouldn’t bother me, but it’s becoming endemic, whether out of real anxieties over the marching season or excessive ‘playfulness’, I don’t know. But it really doesn’t make for good reading.

    BTW, I did not intend using the term as a slur on SS (s/he’s a highly valued commenter here at Slugger), but I’ve not seen any convincing argument that the comment was not such.

  • Padraig Óg

    TAFKABO reading your post again let me clarify something

    I did NOT say ‘All Unionists and anything celebratory related to them is to be immediately viewed with suspicion’ as you so claim.

    Grossly taken out of context. I was referring to Sandy Row, a predominantly loyalist area which had been, not only a no go area for Catholics over the years, but more recently been the scene of numerous disgusiting racist attacks

    Why should some people not feel the need to be slightly cynical? Do I welcome it? Yes of course I do. If Feile an Phobail can be a success why can’t other areas? But to label me or anyone else for displaying a but cynicism as sectarian????

    Now THAT staggers me

  • TAFKABO

    Padraig.

    Your words.

    when it comes to any celebration by a predominately unionist/loyalist area

    You didn’t say one particular Loyalist /Unionist area, you said any celebration by a Unionist/Loyalist area.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Paidraig

    To attempt, as you have done, to smear the community of Sandy Row because of “numerous” racist attacks (perhaps you could give some examples?), carried out by mindless thugs is not only unfair, it is grossly sectarian.

    This is a festival organised for local children, pensioners and residents. It is an extremely positive thing. That you should resort to this type of gutter-sniping is pathetic.

    I feel embarrassed for you.

  • Padraig Óg

    Here ya go Christopher

    Quite a broad range of source wouldn’t you agree? Many more out there should you wish to look

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/race/story/0,11374,1120113,00.html
    http://www.celtic-connection.com/features/feat2004_09_01_out.html
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/3552393.stm
    http://www.serve.com/pfc/sattacks/may02att.html
    http://www.geocities.com/irishafa/xmasattacks.html

    TAFKABO my use of ‘any’ was in relation to any celebration in that particular area. Please stop grasping at straws

  • fair_deal

    Of the 5 you list only 1 occurred in Sandy Row. Plus you used the term ‘recent’ attacks all five are two years old or longer.

  • TAFKABO

    From one of the links provided by Padraig.

    The Village in south Belfast is a run-down network of loyalist terraces where unemployment is high, union flags sag from lampposts and almost every family has a link to loyalist paramilitaries.

    Aye Padraig, sure I’m just being paranoid to think that you have any kind of agenda here.

  • Christopher Stalford

    fair_deal

    Perhaps Paidraig isn’t familiar with the geography of the area, but he should acquant himself with it before he tries to besmirch my constituents again.

  • fair_deal

    CS

    Detail is often a good weapon against sweeping generalisation/demonisation of entire communities.

  • Christopher Stalford

    From The Gaurdian article:

    “The Village in south Belfast is a run-down network of loyalist terraces where unemployment is high, union flags sag from lampposts and almost every family has a link to loyalist paramilitaries.”

    This is a downright lie and represents an excellent example of the systematic demonisation that the communities who live off the Donegall Road have had to endure.

  • fair_deal

    CS

    BTW I thought there was a very good minority ethnic community presence in the crowd for the Sandy Row mini-Twelfth this year.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Fair Deal

    I noticed that too. It’s very encouraging.

  • lib2016

    Maybe I’m being entirely too suspicious after the ‘explanation’ of what KIA meant on another thread but please believe me when I say that I’d be happy to find that the good people of Sandy Row have asserted themselves at last.

    Up until about ten years ago I was in touch with good friends there and it would be nice to hear some cheerful news about the area. Anybody got any photographs to post? I’d love to see if I recognised any faces.

  • Christopher Stalford

    “too suspicious”

    What is suspicious about a cheerleaders group, a pensioners tea-dance, a fund-day for local kids, a “night at the movies” for old folks showing old classic films?

    This level of hatred, because the people organising the events happen to be from Sandy Row is disgraceful!

  • lib2016

    Christopher,

    Sorry, I obviously didn’t convey my sentiments. I really hope that this festival is ‘what it says on the tin’. I know that there are many good people living in Sandy Row and have reason to be grateful to some of them for help in the past.

  • DavidD

    Forgive me going off topic but the reactions to this thread, though about a seemingly trivial and uncontentious issue,exemplify the asymmetrical nature of the British/Unionist and Irish republican divide. British nationalism (and most others) is generally ‘unthinking’; it feels no need to justify itself, it simply IS. This is why Unionists are frequently nonplussed when asked to give reasons for their opposition to a UI – it is simply a daft question. Irish republicanism (not Irish nationalism) is unable to fully define itself except by reference to ‘the other’, this other being the English, the British or the Unionists. Hence we have these references to ‘800 years of oppression’, Cromwell, the genocidal intent of the famine, unionist intolerance etc. often accompanied by wild excursions into the evils of British imperialism generally.

    What saddens me about this is, for example, that quite legitimate and positive Irish nationalist aspirations such as support for the Irish language (which I agree with) become politicised and the subject of acrimony. The impression given by republicans is that this ancient language is being used negatively as a weapon against ‘the other’, not positively as an end in itself.

    Irish nationalism (perhaps I should use the term Irish particularism) is positive, not so Irish republicanism as expressed on this and other topics.

  • kensei

    “Irish republicanism (not Irish nationalism) is unable to fully define itself except by reference to ‘the other’, this other being the English, the British or the Unionists. Hence we have these references to ‘800 years of oppression’, Cromwell, the genocidal intent of the famine, unionist intolerance etc. often accompanied by wild excursions into the evils of British imperialism generally.”

    This is frankly balls. I’m not even going to dignify it with more than that.

  • seabhac siulach

    I must say to be labelled sectarian because I saw (not that I implied or imagined or anything else) NEWLY painted curbstones on Sandy Row in the colours of red, white and blue, and linked that with a, perhaps, orange festival in the area is beyond me…
    The important point in my above comments is that I noticed that the curbstones were NEWLY painted, so I ASSUMED this to be linked to the festival. So, I am guilty of attributing a fresh lick of paint to the festival, nothing more.
    If it had been an orange festival, I couldn’t give a damn, and good luck to them for having a good time.
    I was just looking for more information on the festival (which Mick supplied). I see now that it is not an orange festival, again good luck to them. And I am glad it is a more cross-community affair…

    Really, though, I have to admit there is a fair bit of false naivety in some of the comments from (I assume) the Unionist community writing here…
    In Belfast, and far beyond, Sandy Row is a by-word for a loyalist area, so it is hardly a great logical leap (innocent, sectarian or otherwise) to imagine that a festival held there in the marching season has something to do with orangeism. There is an equating of Sandy Row with loyalism/orangeism (which the countless murals there reinfornce), but again how is this sectarian, with all the negative connotations this word usually implies…

    Much as a festival on the Falls road, say at the time of Easter Sunday, without any accompanying information on what it involved, might be considered a Republican festival of some sort, so equally here. And, say someone mistakenly commented on the new tricolours put up (not for this republican festival but actually for Easter Sunday), would this comment also be sectarian?
    I mean this is taking sensitivity to new heights…

    Criticise me for something I have said, not something you think I have implied, please…

  • DavidD

    Many thanks for your cogent, well argued response kensai.

  • kensei

    “Many thanks for your cogent, well argued response kensai.”

    Your welcome. Somehow, it still managed to have better argument tha your original post.

  • DavidD

    Kensai

    There was I, thinking that my opening gambit might lead to an interesting discussion, making my move and you with one swish of the hand swept all my pieces from the board. Well done, I concede. Check mate

  • páid

    Ádh mór ar Fhéile an Rae Ghainimheach.

    Ta súil agam go mbeidh deá-aimsir agaibh is go mbeidh spiorad na phobail sa gceantar goite i méid.

  • TAFKABO

    C’est facile d’utiliser une autre langue quand tu as perdu la discussion et n’as plus aucun argument à apporter dans la langue originelle.

    (Allez les Bleus!)

  • pid

    TAFKABO,

    I’m not sure if it’s facile to write in Irish on an English blog, particularly one that deals with Irish affairs. I understand, of course, that few enough readers understand it.

    The Irish, or Gaelic language is (unfortunately, perhaps) politicized in NI, though I hope that this will change in the future.

    Forza Azzurri! 🙂