Piece: A DIY manifesto for promoting Northern Ireland

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?

  • Dan

    We do have some world class chancers too………

  • Turgon

    This from the web site linked to: “The other, a Canadian living in Tel Aviv with a slight obssesion regarding the Irish ever since he saw Michael Collins (the movie).”

    I think this piece came out 12 days late. Is it actually serious?

    The linked website also talks about the nine counties of Ulster yet is promoting Northern Ireland.

    Anyhow suspending disbelief for a brief period some questions:

    What are any monies raised to be spent on and to whom will they be given in exchange for what services?

    What will happen if the money asked for is not raised?

    Will you be applying for any other finding sources?

    Maybe this is an entirely honest and above board attempt to raise money. I am reminded, however, (albeit on a much, much bigger scale) of the debacle which was the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance which raised vast sums of money, spent it on directors salaries and never had a remotely viable plan.

    Finally as a separate issue this piece is being used by a slugger blogger to promote an outside organisation which she also has a pecuniary interest in. Has the blogger gained Mick’s permission to advertise on this site?

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Over the next fifteen years the world will have changed – utterly. Now is the
    time for us to map out a future building on the skills we already have and incubating new ones.

    A list of strategic competencies may include:

    Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)
    Computer CGI & Games
    Film & Arts
    Molten Salt Reactors
    Tidal & wind generation
    General Purpose Robotics (GPR) & AI
    Graphene
    Autonomous Vehicles

    All this is achievable and doable – we do have most of the skills to start but
    we do need direction. We do not need to be sidetracked into rows about bloody flags.

  • Practically_Family

    How about 11p?

    I would have thought that a viable commercial publication would cover its production costs through advertising BTW. If it doesn’t… Hmm.

  • Coincidence….?

  • Practically_Family

    Handy though, what with Mairtin’s media interests and such.

    As pieces go, it’s a veritable crisp sandwich…

  • Robin Keogh

    Its clearly an effort to create something unique and encourage people to consider the north of ireland as a destination to explore, i think sometimes it is too easy to be negative.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Fair play to you Jenny for trying something new. It costs next to nothing to set-up a website so it would be good to see more NI sites out there.

  • Nevin

    David Laxer on Brandalism: “The key to branding a post-conflict city is first of all changing the perception of the locals towards the way they see themselves and many times only once you have that change established do the local people and the local citizens become the ambassadors of the city that they belong to or the country they belong to and until there isn’t a change in perception of the way they see themselves you can’t really bring about sincere change.” [26 January 2014 – audioboo]

    It was David’s first time in Belfast and after two days it’s understandable that he failed to note that we’re not living in a post-conflict society; the constitutional tug-of-war continues and trumps other issues, albeit in a much less bloody form.

  • Sharpie

    Your cussedness makes me want to support it – if it has upset your gurn already it must be on the right track.

  • Jenny

    There was some attention here on Slugger, you know.

    And he wasn’t the only person connected to Game of Thrones to note that “Belfast is not the most cosmopolitan of cities to spend half of the year”.

    “First and foremost, we need donations to our Kickstarter in the form of cold, hard cash…”
    Doesn’t everyone…

  • PaulT

    is it a good idea to use a name which means nothing to your target audience, is it a play on peace or reference to the scottish working class slang for a sandwich

    Also food has been done to death in recent years, and it’s also been very well done already in the rest of Ireland, where things are much cheaper.

    Regardless of what a ‘great wee 6/9 counties’ it is, you’re actually trying to raise money to create a website which you say nothing about, to promote NI Food which you only offer vague facts, I’m sure it;s great grub, but how about some actual figures or even industries.

    The video is really poor and confusing, and very annoying, that is not how to make a kickstarter/crowdfunding, as it just just flashes up scenes of NI and starts with very generic images of chips and ice-cream,

  • Brian O’Neill

    To be fair a piece is also the name for a sandwich in Belfast. My da always went to work with his piece.

  • ted hagan

    Well said Jenny. I thought Kit Harrington was cruel the way he held Belfast up to ridicule in the American show. I know it was a laugh, and scripted along the lines of ‘Stay in Belfast? you godda be kidding!’ But there are ways of cracking these jokes without mocking the city you’ve been making a living in for five years. That said, and I haven’t lived in Northern Ireland for 18 years, there’s plenty to work at. What the city needs to work at is to go beyond the ‘great crack’ gombeen image and come with ideas and attractions that aren’t done elsewhere. Originality, and that doesn’tnecessarily involve casinos and longer licensing hours, and pavement cafes, which don’t suit the Ulster climate anyway.

  • Jenny Holland

    Thanks Brian! It’s nice to know that not everyone is such a Debbie Downer.

  • Turgon

    It would be nice to think Ms. Holland that you had enough courage of your convictions and belief in your project to answer some of the legitimate questions raised about the organisation you are Involved in and using slugger as free advertising for.

    That would be rather more impressive a sales pitch than the above.

  • Brian Donnelly

    Piece was a term used in the Harland & Wolf shipyards of Belfast.
    Really, “hasn’t food hasn’t been done to death” as much as ‘flegs,’ marchin’, and the Gaelic language in Stormont. Also in the Republic austerity hasn’t really made things cheaper, it’s a word for harder.
    “Great wee 6/9 counties”– we know ourselves as Ulster/NI, as does much of the rest of the world.
    Clarity on your facts, I’d love to hear them. And if you want a full Powerpoint presentation on NI food, I’m happy to send one across. We’ve done our research.
    Poor, confusing, annoying — words that sum up the argument you put forward. All we want to do is bring the best of us to the rest of the world. It’s not much to ask and if you can’t get behind chips and and ice cream then the Titanic it is, big ice berg and total sinking.

  • Jenny Holland

    Not at all sure how this relates to the Air Ambulance. If your questions are at all genuine, the answers are easy to find on Kickstarter. If you can’t manage that, by all means, message me.

  • Jenny Holland

    Thanks to you too!

  • Turgon

    Ms. Holland the air ambulance was a group of what one might call (charitably) dreamers and less charitably chancers getting money and delivering nothing.

    Now I hope your project is different. However, you have used a public forum to advertise and ask for money in a most public fashion and have used the position of blogger on this site to do so.

    It is not unreasonable therefore to ask you to answer the questions asked in as public a fashion as you have already asked for money. That presuming you have answers for those questions.

  • Zeno

    “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.”

    Am I missing something here? Are you are asking the public to fund a promotional magazine that will hopefully make profit for every supplier, bar restaurant, etc featured?

    If you need 7k why not just ask the people who will benefit most to stump up £100 quid each?

    “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”

    Is it really 7k for a the most basic website?

  • Zeno

    It’s not that the ideas aren’t here. It’s more a problem of who is in charge of funding.
    For not much more than it cost to built the Titanic Building we could have built a non sailing replica of the Titanic and had it operate as a hotel where visitors could have stayed in Staterooms or Steerage. That would have brought 100’s of 1000’s of tourists and created 100’s of jobs.
    For very little money we could put a roof over the main entertainment part of the Cathedral Quarter and had street heaters in the winter. The possibilities for such an area are immense.

  • ted hagan

    Yea, I liked your idea of a Titanic hotel

  • David Laxer

    The key to understanding Piece is that New York, London, LA, Chicago are all looking for authentic stories from what they see as outposts of opportunity…that’s how Berlin became so popular. Belfast, because of its troubled past has a cache that few cities can boast. I believe that Piece can capitalize on that and become the next Berlin. It has all the right tensions in place and an undeniable sex appeal through popular culture. The key is not to focus only on food, but bring forth the characters and the rugged sexiness. And regarding the name…it’s just a name. Obviously it’s a cheeky play on Peace, but no one questioned what Nike meant or Adidas or Michelin for that matter.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Laxer,

    Key to any venture such as this is understanding the place one is trying to promote. The idea that a Canadian living in Israel is in a position to assist significantly in launching a locally based campaign is risible.

    Describing what happened in Northern Ireland as providing “sex appeal” is perverse and immoral. Here in Northern Ireland we had a squalid sectarian murder campaign by bigoted thugs from both communities during which large numbers of innocent people died. On one occasion attendees at a hotel were burned to death by a home made napalm bomb. On other occasions people in restaurants and businesses were blown up or gunned down indiscriminately.

    Your idea is as sick as promoting places where acts of recent mass murder were performed as providing “sex appeal”.

    Leaving aside the your perverse voyeurism

    Your idea of “tensions in all the right places” smacks of dangerous naivety. Having a restaurant at the junction of Short Strand and the Albertbridge Road would sounds ideal: maybe in Cluan Place. Do you have any idea where that is or the foolishness of such an idea?

    Can you provide us with any explanation as to your knowledge of local food production, commercial catering, the restaurant sector etc. It seems unlikely that you can add much to this venture.

    Unless that is you are putting up the money. Several commentators myself included have questioned why this site needs £7,000 as a startup. Furthermore no one has explained why you are not getting the money from the restauranteurs etc. whose businesses you will be promoting.

    Currently it looks like you are asking ordinary people to fund a very expensive website to help the businesses of third parties and doing so in a tasteless and disrespectful fashion. There are also even less charitable explanations of what you are doing.

  • David Laxer

    Turgon, I have been accused of many a thing, naivety not being one of them. I am not the editor-in-chief, Jenny Holland is and she is one of the most talented to be walking the streets of Belfast. My personal expertise is packaging things and making them interesting to international markets. Probably the fact that I am a Canadian living in Israel contributes to that and the fact that I have been to a few places in my lifetime. If N.I wants to promote itself globally, it has to bring forward an engaging story, and that story includes both a troublesome past and a contemporary present. There is nothing sick about Piece…it’s quite healthy actually. It’s called moving on. To part-time commenter I agree that we are middle-class but we are hardly do-gooders. We’re just 2 crazy kids who have put our fingers on something we deem as cool.It seems you have more of a problem with Kickstarter as a concept rather than with our initiative.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Laxer,

    I see you cannot answer my questions about your understanding of Belfast save refer to your fellow backer which simply magnifies the question of your function in this escapade.

    You are correct that we wish to remember the past. The art we remember is those murdered by terrorists not promoting the ghastly Troubles as “sex appeal”. Living in Israel I would have thought you would have understood that certain things should be remembered but not used for “sex appeal”. Your ideas and justification are, sir, perverse and immoral.

    Leaving that and your utter naivety regarding Belfast to one side. We still have not established why you need £7000 or why private citizens should put up money and not the businesses which your website claims it will be promoting.

    Again I ask:

    What are any monies raised to be spent on and to whom will they be given in exchange for what services?

    What will happen if the money asked for is not raised?

    Which other sources of funding have been approached or will be approached and what has their response been?

    You came onto a website and promoted (I presume for free) a plan which involves private citizens giving you money in exchange for a poorly developed business plan from someone with no local knowledge and even if the business plan works the people who provided the money will not get a return.

    Someone here is a naive idiot or being taken for naive idiots. Unfortunately for you Mr. Laxer whatever else we are in Northern Ireland we are not naive idiots.

  • David Laxer

    The funds are to primarily be used to create content. That means writing and shooting videos. Local NI writers and videographers. Creating the actual website isn’t that expensive we’ve almost completed that regardless of the Kickstarter campaign. If for some reason or other we don’t reach our goal of 7500, none of those who pledged will be charged. If anyone wants to have a feel of how we intend on treating NI you are invited to take a look at Telavivian.com – this is an example of a site that portrays an inviting image of a country that the majority of you probably view as different. Imagine what we could do with N.I and keep in mind that those of you reading Slugger aren’t necessarily our natural readership (and based on some of you, that’s a good thing.)

  • Turgon

    So we are now getting a little closer to the truth.

    Contrary to what Ms. Holland states in the OP you do not need the money for a website and the money is not for that.

    You claim the money is for videos etc. Well maybe tell us who is going to do the work or what the specifications are so slugger readers in those industries can bid.

    That brings me back to one of my additional questions: who else have you approached for money? Furthermore since the site is almost ready are you going to launch it even if you do not et the money.

    This sounds very like how Mick started slugger: with a massive difference.

    He started the site himself and only when it was up and running and a success asked for funding. It seems you could do exactly the same thing. In actual fact if you created a successful site you could probably get funding from it or from a proper loan rather than asking people for money.

    Fairly telling is this statement: “keep in mind that those of you reading Slugger aren’t necessarily our natural readership”

    I am unclear how you have established this was it from Israel or Canada

    If indeed we are not your natural readership why you are still happy to ask us for money?

    As I stated above Mr. Laxer you look very naive or else you look like a chancer: tell me how many times have you set up businesses like this before?

  • David Laxer

    As the person who came up with the name, I fully intended it to be a play on the word Peace. It’s catchy, looks good and has many playful possibilities.
    In terms of raising funds for this, we definitely will be seeking to engage a serious investor for a significant amount but feel that it’s best to present an advanced demo before that happens. With the funds contemplated in our campaign, we will be able to present a unique vision and style of a website and demonstrate our vision beyond any doubt. This will allow us to create a succulent appetizer as it were that will hopefully create a dynamic that will allow us to present a full-fledged feast.