Yesterday’s annual 12th Demonstration saw me head up to the field at Barnett Demense. Normally i would cover the warm up and gathering around Templemore Ave then the walk into the city centre. This year i decided to forgo this (and get a lie in) to head up to the point of destination at Barnett Demense. I had a vague notion to document the various banners and to look at the family nature of the gathering at the field and perhaps get a few portraits. I should perhaps explain that i grew up C of I so the parades and the like do not strike a chord of fear in me on first hearing as it would and does with some of my friends. In fact i quite like the spectacle of it all(reminding me as it does of innocent times).
Arriving approx 45 mins before the parade from the city centre, i stood at the entrance to Barnett Demense for 20 or so mins. I was surprised at the number of (unopened) carry outs being brought into the Council owned property.
It was obvious to me that quite a few of the younger followers were already the worse for wear through drink and would most certainly get drunker before they got soberer. Taking a quick walk around the field before the first Lodges and bands arrived i saw a number of disparate groups of youths (10-20 in each), who were already tanked up and throwing abuse at anyone who didn’t conform to their dress standards and lack of sobriety. Ignoring the abuse but making a mental note to give the groups a wide berth later, i headed back to the entrance when i heard the first chords of music blaring out. This turned out to be a mini bus full of evangelists handing tracts out to hymns blasting out of their tannoy system.
The first lodge and band entered to cheers and claps as they walked up and as can be seen (in the first photograph above) a follower in a Spanish football shirt gleefully walked alongside them slugging away from a can of green.
As the lodges and bands kept coming i did manage to get a few portraits and
shots of the banners……
As more and more Lodges and bands arrived it became harder to keep up with them all and my idea of getting photographs of as many of the banners as possible soon became nigh on impossible. It also became increasingly difficult to avoid the drunken youths (and their abuse) that were stumbling around with glazed eyes, a few of whom had UVF flags wrapped around their waists. Indeed a tv crew from down south(RTE?) were forced to move as they were pelted with pine cones by a group of around 20 or 30 youths.
Now setting aside the issue of drink being taken i was impressed with the organisation of some of the Lodges who in what seemed like no time at all, had bbq’s set up to provide the members with tea,sandwiches and burgers. There was a real feeling of comradeship amongst them. They were happy and proud to be out and about on this day. It’s a side of ‘Orangefest’ that should really be played up indeed the OO should play to their strengths as regards this.
It’s my view that a zero tolerance attitude should be taken towards the consumption of alcohol at the field (at the very least) which would go some way to placating the detractors of the annual demonstration.
I do think the Orange Order has a long way to go to gain confidence in the wider community and the irony of Temperance Lodges being led by bands that will retire to the beer tent (where i didn’t venture to) to fuel up for a couple of hours wasn’t lost on me nor should it be lost on you the reader or the leadership and advisors to the OO. My feeling is that drink is the major issue around the annual demonstrations particularly amongst the younger followers. That a Council owned property allows such open displays of drunkenness seems at odds with the so called inclusiveness of the days events(and stated council policy). It could also be argued that this adds fuels to the argument that the day is nothing more than a triumphalist display sending the message that the OO and it’s followers will do pretty much as they please.
I’ll finish with a photograph that i found (and still find) profoundly depressing. So much so, that combined with the vague threats bandied about meant that i left after only an hour and a half up at the field. If these two are the future i fear we have a very long way to go before Orangefest becomes something that we can all be proud of.
For the unitinitiated KAT = Kill All Taigs(Catholics)
FAP = F*ck All Paramilitaries or F*ck All Papists
Photographer and visual artist based in Belfast.
I have facilitated community based workshops with groups as diverse as visually impaired individuals in Dungannn, Travellers across Northern Ireland, Young Offenders and many community groups across Belfast.
My work has exhibited extensively here in Northern Ireland in group and individual shows and has been shown in North America and i had my first solo international exhibition in New Zealand. I have been the recipient of a number of grants from the Arts Council Northern Ireland.
I’ll be blogging about Arts and Culture, primarily in Belfast
check out www.moochinphotoman.tumblr.com