On St Patrick’s Day morning I found myself in what felt like the arctic tundra but was actually Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. The occasion was to cheer on some friends who were running the Craic 10k race. The biting wind and snow just added to the desolate gloom of the place. Now to be fair it was bad weather in most places, but I have been to the Titanic Quarter in July and the wind would cut you.
The whole area just has the vibe of an apocalyptic wasteland. Huge amounts of vacant land interspersed with very expensive ‘Signature projects’. I had a look in the new Titanic Hotel and they have done a lovely job of refurbing the old H&W drawing rooms. But pity the poor guest who wants to pop out for a drink or a meal. It is a long trek to civilisation on the other side of the lough.
Then you have the government ‘signature projects’. Let’s put the Public Records Office right next to the sea so it can flood in years to come. And just for good measure provide no parking to make it really difficult for staff and visitors alike to access. Then you have the Belfast Met Titanic Quarter campus: The £211m college that should have cost £44m.
Pity the poor staff and students who have to work and study here. Despite there beings acres of vacant land, all the car parks are expensive private ones just to really ride people. And yes I know the policy is to get people to use public transport, but how user-friendly is that when the nearest train stop is a 30-minute walk from the NI Science Centre?
Then where do you go when you want to go out for lunch or do some shopping? The Dock Cafe is a welcome oasis of civilisation but there is not much else. As for living there, I am sure they may be nice apartments but could there be anywhere bleaker?
Now Titanic Quarter management will point to the thousands of jobs that have been created in the area. The millions of visitors who traipse through the Titanic Visitors Centre. They will say what an invaluable global brand Titanic is. All true but it still does not hide the fact it is a charmless hole of a place that is best avoided where possible. It also shows how hard it is to give a place character and soul. In the Cathedral Quarter, city centre or around Queen’s you get an actual sense of history, identity, and most importantly personality.
Now I will be the first to admit I am an aul curmudgeon. Some Danish lads have a plan to make the area less awful. You can see the shiny video below. Edit: it turns out this video is for the old sirocco works, doh!
In years to come maybe I shall by strolling along the quays admiring the yachts and thinking how wrong I was. But for now it is ‘Here be dragons’ and considering they film Game of Thrones there, I suppose it is factually correct.