Faces of the West Belfast past, now part of culture

As you get older, you have to get used to the idea of real life experiences repeating as something called culture. It’s always an anxious moment, waiting for the re-enactment or recall. Will vivid memories of the old experiences come rushing back or will they return back embalmed. in the oul’ Oirish way? Day after day in the old Belfast Magistrate’s Court, solicitor Paddy McGrory (senior) solemnly intoned little speeches as to why his clients should get bail. Every now and again, wonder of wonders, the beak would half agree with him as bail periods stretched into many months. But in the end, sometimes with a sorrowful shake of the head from the magistrate, it was back to Crumlin Road jail for your man. There was much more to McGrory, the SAS Gibraltar killings, supergrasses and all that, but a great deal of the routine must have been very mundane. He was respected across the divide and the smear “Provo lawyer” never stuck. It was McGrory’s key achievement to provide legal defences for terrorists that could be respected by his natural political opposites. At times, this was one of few fine threads that held society together. President McAleese’s rather daring choice of Paddy as the subject of a Feile an phobial lecture is keenly awaited by her admirers and critics alike. As is another celebration of a troubles creation, the people’s black taxi, this time as play and theatre. Can Two Roads West match the real life drama of many a black taxi ride? Reviews of both events, please!

  • One of the events of the feile is here on you tube


    The brian rowan interview with brendan duddy, extremely interesting interview, where they speak of both hunger strikes and how Duddy got the role of mountain climber and many of the major players are discussed.

  • BD

    some thoughts on TWO ROADS WEST…

    Enjoyable, yes, as a novelty, but the more you think of it the more shallow it is. The woman’s tale is a sweet short story or monologue – and the driver is a genial guide but there’s no real connection between them.

    The journey itself is a straightforward tour of only the lower Falls and Shankill which doesn’t take us near the bits we might want to see – Milltown, The Royal etc – and there’s little sense of us getting an inside story to the place or people so it feels like a Tourist Board gig, a sweet reassuring burst of nostalgia, while a “proper” play might have confronted us with something uncomfortable and challenging.

    But is this just a missed opportunity or is there something much more insidious going on? The Marxist wash over the whole thing – the mills, the workers, the poverty, the displacement of population and all that focus on the “International Wall” with only a passing reference to sectarianism, makes us all out to be a tragic, misunderstood, downtrodden race of honourable, noble workers – but is that an honest description of working class Belfast as we know it? Can the worst parts of our character and history be re-written and re-packaged so simply? Perhaps that depends who’s doing the packaging.

    This is history in bite-size socialist chunks, when theatre’s job is to challenge easy answers. Imagine disputing the truth on the very spot where those two soldiers were dragged from their vehicle and died/were killed/murdered/butchered, or inside Milltown, or where Frizzell’s used to stand for that matter? Now that would be real theatre. But then, would the city council pay for that?