How would you measure a Belfast Buzz?

At the ‘Belfast One City’ conference Paul Nolan, author of the Peace Monitoring Report, said it would be difficult to collect the data to measure the positive feelings in Belfast. As odd as it may seem to take a scientific approach to measure the mood of an entire city, it does highlight how small victories for a city as a whole, may not be of any consequence to individual citizens struggling with recession.

As we head into summer, many people are suffering from brain freeze after being bombarded with iceberg related anniversary news. A ‘Thai-tanic’ restaurant really took the biscuit. Although there is probably a Titanic biscuit out there as well. The cynics will say, celebrating failure is not something we should be proud of, whilst others will point to the positive attention the Titanic has brought to Belfast. An impressive, new exhibition building to attract tourists and celebrities (John Bishop being the latest) can only be good for the city.

The Belfast media group in promoting the ‘Belfast One City’ conference labelled Belfast as a ‘vibrant city’. I would argue that there is no question that Belfast is going in the right direction, but with a city centre that is like a ghost town most days of the week, it is only our drinking and dining culture that is providing any footfall after 6pm.

Paul Nolan states in the PMR that: “Attention has focused more on the relaxed environment of the city centres, which now boast a new ‘cappuccino culture’, busy restaurants, shopping malls and night clubs.”

Following trends in the US or on the continent is not a new thing and the cappuccino culture in Belfast has been thriving for years. Now it seems like our mimicry of the continent is set to continue with new legislation set to be introduced to legally allow cafes, restaurants, and bars to place tables and chairs on the pavement for use by their customers.
DSD Minister Nelson McCausland said: ‘’Well designed, sensibly located pavement cafés can add value to the street scene, boost visitor numbers and contribute to the economic and general well-being of local communities. “

I would love more of the Al fresco lifestyle and I regularly take the opportunity of a break in the clouds to lie in a heap outside City Hall, but we don’t live in Madrid, Paris or even London.

There is the sense that we continue to struggle with our identity, a shared identity to be proud of. Titanic gave an example as one BBC reporter claimed her Catholic friends considered the Titanic to be a symbol for Protestantism. It is typical that even something as big as Titanic cannot be celebrated in unison.

Rather than measuring a so-called Belfast buzz. We should be moving past the buzz words like ‘A shared future’ and ‘dealing with the past’ and actually finding a way to make it happen.

Freelance journalist, researcher and writer