Monday, 23 April 2012

Titanic Much?

Titanic leaving Belfast
Titanic mania reached its peak this week with the 100th anniversary of its sinking, but surely nowhere more than here in Belfast, aka Titanic town. It's EVERYWHERE. Even in the hotel last week, the walls were covered with Titanic inspired paintings, (an artist somewhere is sooo making a killing), while 'authentic' Titanic afternoon teas were being served on the terrace. (Presumably these were the teas enjoyed on the upper decks and not by the poor sods in steerage class).
On the TV and radio over the last few weeks it's been programme after programme, (Even Len Goodman was jumping on the bandwagon for goodness sake!), and 'A Night to Remember' seemed to be running on a loop. There's commemorative supplements in all the newspapers and last week the Belfast Telegraph issued Titanic medals! 
Titanic museum, Belfast
There are tours-a -plenty and the new Titanic museum opened its doors here in Belfast last week to sell out crowds- tickets have been like hens' teeth, but personally, I think I'll wait till it settles down a bit myself. 
See that Rose one...
Oh, and James Cameron's Titanic movie has been shamelessly re-released in 3D as well- (like he didn't make enough first time around!) I remember seeing it in Virginia in 1997- we had just moved there a few months earlier, it was 2 BC ( Before Children),  my cousin was visiting and the three of us went on a cold December night. I was secretly thrilled to see Belfast featured, albeit briefly, on the big screen so far from home, and cried my way through it along with everyone else. Fast forward to this weekend, and our Anna asked to go see it on Saturday with her pals. It's a 12 certificate, and although she IS 12, we're pretty strict about  TV and movies in general, and my practiced parental mind immediately filtered through my memory bank, bypassing all it's historical value, zooming in instead, on Rose lying in the nudie rudie being painted by a bloke she'd only just met..then subsequently getting up to no good in the back of the car!  But we discussed it and decided to let her go, and later, when she arrived home red eyed, she announced that it was the saddest film she'd ever seen in her life and she cried the whole way through....and she'd had the best time ever. (And happily she was at the loo at the car bit ...cos I checked.)
But where was I? Oh yes, despite feeling more than a bit Titanic-ed out, I just can't help being proud of the increased tourism and buzz that Titanic fever has brought to Belfast. You see, like so many of us, I remember the bad old days all too well, when a backpacker was a rare sight, and anyway, we just automatically assumed they were here by mistake. When the streets of Belfast were all closed off at night, with barriers, and soldiers and barbed wire... but sure that's another blog altogether!
Now, haven't we only gone and got ourselves a Titanic Quarter? (along with Queen's, Cathedral and Gaeltacht ) To me, it's another welcome string in the bow of a town, that's long been the black sheep of Irish tourism, but my goodness, she does scrub up well.
Titanic in Belfast
And no, I don't subscribe to the school of thought that thinks that remembering, celebrating and, (God forbid), capitalising on Titanic, is somehow in poor taste. This was a TERRIBLE human disaster, but it happened 100 years ago, and is no longer in living memory. Also-let's be realistic here-so much of history is made up of tragedy, and every society has to learn from the mistakes of it's forefathers. If we only acknowledged the happy endings, it would be a false history indeed. At the time it was built, Titanic was a triumph of modern engineering and it was built right here in little old Belfast. My aunt told me, that my great grandfather recalled going to the shipyards, just to marvel at its size and beauty. He also remembered waving, along with so many others, as it sailed from the docks up Belfast Lough on its way to Southhampton. (Actually, it may be in slightly poor taste,  if you so wish you can even buy a t shirt that states 'Titanic- it was alright when it left here...' and I couldn't help but smile.. not least because it's true!)
But now the anniversary's over and the media coverage will settle down, the Titanic afternoon teas will finish, and the queues for the museum will shorten. From here on in though, I believe that Titanic and Belfast will be forever inextricably linked, both for us and in the eyes of the world, and to me that's a very rich legacy indeed.


  1. hey there. Is 'titanic much' a pun on or reference to something local?

  2. That's funny you should ask- I stole it from Dara O'Briain- it was his opening line at his Belfast show last week- I suppose it's just a jokey play on words! Thanks for asking!

  3. Jennifer Boyle13 May 2012 at 16:18

    proper laugh out loud at the tourists here by accident bit, thats so true!

  4. We came over and spent a few days in Belfast to take part and blog about the Titanic Festival and debated the pros and cons of celebrating a disaster! As a visitor the city seems to have changed so much in its look and feel and I'm not sure the world has caught up. Whatever you feel about Titanic it's a great piece of showcase marketing that will bring in the tourists probably in a more positive and populist way than a Troubles Tour (although visiting got us interested in that too.

  5. That is really good to hear Stuart- it's all very well for me to like it but far more important than you do!