Last week Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington got lots of attention after he affectionately criticised the Northern Irish tourism strategy of over-promoting the bad things that have happened here. In particular he poked fun at the relentlessly upbeat and proud promotion of as the city that built the Titanic, which of course was an epic disaster.
I don’t agree with the overall sentiment of his comments, especially that there is nothing to do here after three days. But he has a point about what we chose to promote. Northern Ireland should not only be known for unfathomable political violence and poor ship building skills.
The lesson is not “let’s bash the tourism bodies,” however. We shouldn’t leave it up to the tourist boards and other government entities or the traditional media to tell the story of what we love about Northern Ireland.
We, the people who live, work and create here, need to tell our own story. Because it’s just not getting covered enough. The message is not getting out there.
Enter Piece. Piece is an online magazine that will promote Northern Ireland as a premiere destination for foodies, nature-lovers and consumers of culture. Because that’s what we have on our doorstep, and it’s great.
As editor-in-chief, I will look for the small producers who offer great quality, the local characters who tell the best pub stories, the young writers, photographers, film makers and comedians who can, through the Piece platform, showcase their skills to a global audience. We will also include a shop through which small producers can sell their wares directly to consumers in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Piece will focus in particular on food and drink and those who produce, cook and serve it, because to put it simply, Northern Irish cuisine and produce are having a moment. As Michele Shirlow of Good Food NI said, “We are on the edge of a food revolution and we need to tell the world.”
Food is a great equaliser. Food has a special power to make even political enemies worship at the same altar. It doesn’t matter how green or orange you are, your views on how to make the best Sunday roast are even stronger. The enjoyment of food transcends differences, and sitting down at the table together, breaking bread, is the symbol of fraternity and harmony. It’s not for nothing that when the Italians want to tell someone to take a hike they ask “have we ever eaten together?” The answer is no, because eating together equals friendship.
Piece wants to move the Northern Irish narrative forward, away from flegs and gay cakes.
It’s easy to understand why people feel beleaguered here, because there are many intractable problems and in a small pond, they start to seem outsized, insurmountable even. But Piece aims to work against that defeatism. It’s time for a pep talk, people, and we are here to give it. This is a great place, and we should all be proud of it.
Lest we sound too earnest, it needs to be said that Piece will not be all high-brow thought pieces and chin-stroking. Northern Ireland likes to have fun, and we want our readers to have fun along with us, be they in Chicago or Shanghai.
But we need support. We need the bloggers, farmers, home cooks and artists. We need the taxi drivers, teachers and techies. First and foremost, we need donations to our Kickstarter in the form of cold, hard cash, so we can get even the most basic site up and running. You can see the video we produced and donate anything from £5 up here.
Who wants a Piece?