The F word

While aware that stories about fun and progress in Belfast are anathema to some, I will carry on regardless with tales from my cultural odyssey. First stop last night was the Conway Mill on the Falls Road where Frankie Quinn launched his photographic exhibition. The enigmatic Frankie has spent the past 4 years photgraphing the Peace Line walls, and his photographs are stunning and provoking. His work explores boundaries, and the definition of identity within the boundaries we create or which are created around us. The exhibition opens on September 11th in Conway and runs to the 15th. It then moves to Spectrum Centre on the Shankill from December 4-8th.

One point that interested me was Frankie’s comment that the NIO have detailed 27 walls in Belfast. Having photographed them to the point he was dreaming about them, Frankie insists there are 41. In either case, it remains the saddest indictment of our capital city that we need to be kept apart like animals in a zoo.

Leaving Conway, I was lucky to be able to tag along to Belfast Castle for the breathtaking event organised by the Belfast Film Festival. The WOW factor was enormous at this event. The moon was huge and clear, the night crisp and chilly and about 500 people wrapped in blankets or sitting on seats took in Monty Python and the Holy Grail on a big screen. There were 2 short films to start, and the second of these was tremendous. A film crew went about in North Belfast and urged people to sing a song frmo the Sound of Music, in theme with the ‘Hills are Alive’ theme of the Festival. Almost everyone was game to sing along, and it was perfect. The crews spent their time between Ardoyne and Glenbryn, and there was no heavy handed efforts to ‘represent’ anyone at all. Just a perfect capture of a bit of silliness. Best moment award goes to the nun they found on a park bench in Cave Hill who tried to sing. Bless her, she hadnt a note, so tried to swirl and dance instead. Alas, she was as good at the dancing as the singing, but no matter it was all in good fun.

I have to mention the organisation and staff of the event, as they were fantastic. Friendly, cool, efficient but also enjoying the fun and the film. It was lovely to see and although tonights performance of Princess Bride has been sold out, I will be looking forward to next year’s already.

As I stood in the moonlight looking over the laughing crowds with the lights of Belfast twinkling in the distance, I was minded of Frankie’s peace lines and the contrast we present and propose as a matter of our daily lives. Jack Nicholson said ‘The truth, you want the truth? You can’t handle the truth’ I wonder if the same could be said for us and normality. We seem to touch it and prod it, not trusting that it will remain solid- always ephemeral. But events like the exhibition and the Drive-In movie prove that we must keep moving on, keep being normal and one day perhaps Frankie can stand in the rubble of the walls and chart their demise.