This text was instigated at Paragon Studios in Belfast for the exhibition PALISADE.
(Part of the #Peacewalls50 Series of events)
It will develop over the course the exhibition.
/ Notes: 6 months in /
(1) The history of peacewalls in Belfast is a long one stretching back to division of the City Cemetery by a 9 foot underground wall in 1880s. (2) I found the British Government document that initialises the Peacewalls as a way of regaining control over locally constructed barricades in 1969. (3) Bombay Street was identified as the ignition point for all the Troubles in Belfast, located on the Falls-Shankill Interface. Interesting site(s) here relate to illegally planned housing and roads (post-riots) that envisioned connection to Shankill area. These remain truncated forever since. Relates to wider trend of cul-de-sac planning in Belfast, facilitated by ongoing planning initiatives. (5) There is a huge amount of wasteland adjacent to the 'Peacelines'. 67 hectares over Belfast in total. Initial idea of a 'Peace Park' that overtakes this wasteland, and houses elements that deal with memory and identities of the competing communities. (6) There are many agencies involved in the process, but information sharing is not good. Processes are not transparent, and the local ‘peaceline’ residents are clearly ill-informed about progress. They are also 'surveyed out'. They want action now, not continual consultation. (7) The 'day after' question? There is a problem of imagination about what happens once the peace walls come down. (8) There is a lack of local engagement in envisioning this process. It needs to move beyond the level of form filling. Another type of social engagement is required. Potential ethics issues arise from this? (9) An observation that came through strongly in this work is that the Peacewalls remain buried in the image landscape. There seems to be a policy of not showing the walls in any public facing documents, maps etc. This is most obvious on the current OS map, where the major Interface walls do not register at all. (10) Some of the resistance to the Peacewalls coming down is due to perceived loss of tourist revenue, and very local issues such as quietness. (11) The office of the First Minister has now published policy that specifies the government goal that all walls in Belfast will be taken down by 2023.
/ Black Friday, Belfast 1972 /
Bomb 01. Albert Bridge - Discovered at approx. 1.00pm, defused
Bomb 02. Limestone Road - Exploded 2.40pm
Bomb 03. Botanic Avenue - Exploded 2.45pm
Bomb 04. Star Taxis, Crumlin Road - Exploded 2.45pm
Bomb 05. Brookvale Avenue - Exploded 2.50pm
Bomb 06. Queen Elizabeth Bridge - Exploded 2.55pm
Bomb 07. Ormeau Avenue - Exploded 2.57pm
Bomb 08. Garmoyle Street - Exploded 2.59pm
Bomb 09. Liverpool Ferry Terminal - Exploded 3.02pm
Bomb 10. M2 flyover - Discovered 3.02pm, failed to detonate
Bomb 11. Oxford Street Bus Station - Exploded 3.02pm
Bomb 12. Creighton’s Garage, Upper Lisburn Rd - Exploded 3.05pm
Bomb 13. Stewartstown Road - Exploded 3.05pm
Bomb 14. Finaghy Road North Railway Bridge - Exploded 3.05pm
Bomb 15. Electricity Substation, Salisbury Avenue - Exploded 3.05pm
Bomb 16. Tate’s Avenue Railway Bridge - Exploded 3.09pm
Bomb 17. York Street Station - Exploded 3.10pm
Bomb 18. Smithfield Bus Station - Exploded 3.10pm
Bomb 19. Eastwood’s Motors, Donegall Street - Exploded 3.12pm
Bomb 20. Cavehill Road shops - Exploded 3.15pm
Bomb 21. Dee Street flyover - Discovered 3.30pm, defused
Bomb 22. Great Victoria Street Station - Exploded 4.00pm
Bomb 23. NI Carriers, Grosvenor Road - Failed to detonate
/ Cluster 08: Cliftonville Road /
“Are ye ready?...Are ye ready?...Just watch it coz all of that could come down in one go.“ And so it starts. The performance of the wall ‘take down’ commences. Multiple camera’s are rolling. The mechanical digger engages, the operator exhibiting the skills of a ballerina, deftly positioning the fingers of the bucket to ease coils of razorwire from the top of the wall. First the coils of wire, then the capping pieces, then the first courses of brickwork. Afterwards, I realize that he is playing out the removal of these layers for the camera, drawing out the drama. “It could all have come down in one go” as he says later. These contractors are not locals, but they understand the significance of this wall coming down. They are from Omagh, so are not unfamiliar with atrocity and its slow aftermath. As the work is progressing I see two women, in slight agitation, walk swiftly toward the site foreman. I recognise them as an Interface worker and a representative from a local community group on the Unionist side. “We were not informed about this”…”it’s coming down too early”. They were concerned about ‘encroachment’ and potential raids from across this newly opened ground, particularly from the (Nationalist) New Lodge, the towers of which were suddenly all the more visible through the newly made hole in the wall. The proximity of the New Lodge had not changed, just the perception of it. I could see how this newly exposed proximity was disturbing them. ”it’s coming down too early.” This statement, I realise, is true, and its causation might be down to me. I had been in email contact with the community liaison officer in the foreman’s office for the previous 18 months waiting for an indication of when this wall was likely to be taken down. Finally, when I got the email confirming the removal, I immediately caught a plane to Belfast from London to record the event. As things transpired, things slipped behind schedule, and by the time I had arrived in the city the take-down had been re-scheduled for the following week, and the adjacent community groups, Manor Park and Cliftonville, informed accordingly. But when I arrived on site, (unaware of all this) with tripods and cameras at the ready, the foreman took pity on me and decided to instruct the men to remove the wall the following morning. As I stand behind my camera tripod, I realise for the first time that I am not merely a neutral observer here. My ‘observation’ is also a kind of intervention, which has an impact ‘on the ground’.