I’ve mentioned before that I lived in Dublin at the tail end of the 1970’s and 80’s. I am one of those people who didnt want to get tied down with a house in Sandymount for £30,000, but no bitterness there! I watched Dublin transform from a friendly, grubby, intimate city into the glass and brick international capital it is today. It has obviously gained much in all the materialistic ways, but lost its soul in the process.
I have the same feel about Belfast today. I love Belfast, love the people, the buildings, the intimacy. Unionists, close your eyes, but it reminds me so much of the Dublin I used to know. Funny little shops, dirty little corners, never go without meeting someone you know, and a warmth in the middle of town you are unlikely to get anywhere else. Ironically Belfast has gone from deserted wasteland to thriving city in a very short space of time.
So where do we go from here? Do we slavishly follow the Dublin example, and go cosmopolitan? And if we do, will we have anything other than a folk memory to record the change in this City?
I was at John Baucher’s book launch earlier today, and he has captured the essence of Belfast in a very special way. John’s book is one of the lovliest and most compassionate photo essays I have ever seen, and he treats the Laganside and its changing face with care and humanistic attention. Many of you will know his photos that are posted under the name Moochin Photoman, and sets like Harland & Wolff, Everday Orange etc.
I think we will all wait with bated breath to see how sensitively and intelligently Belfast is developed in the coming years, and whether we nurture, protect and grow the arts community that is the heart of the city.
For a great discussion, and a chance to listen to John’s comments, visit Arts Extra for an interview that took place this evening.