“There is a sense that something big is on the horizon”, says Belfast author Susie Millar.
I’ve asked her about the atmosphere in the city at the moment. Belfast of course built the legendary Titanic and plans to mark the 100-year anniversary with nothing less than a festival, firework-laced opening of a Titanic visitor centre and countless arts and culture events. So as a great granddaughter of one the Titanic engineers, and a guide for , Susie’s Titanic history is in her blood – and she has been preparing for this centenary for quite some time.
“For me, having had such a big build up to 2012, it is amazing that it is finally here and I can imagine the excitement my great grandfather would have had a hundred years ago as he prepared to leave Belfast on the ship he had helped to build.”
It feels like Belfast’s big moment has come around again, and what a big moment it plans to be. From the minute those intriguing aluminum doors open at Titanic Belfast on March 31st, to late April when the new stages a Titanic play as its first production; the city will be celebrating its maritime and shipbuilding heritage as well as commemorating the tragic sinking that bereaved it. It has the makings of a very busy time for the city, says Susie.
“The preparations are all on schedule and it is great to see other stakeholders in the city weighing in with their own Titanic events. We have come from an attitude where nobody wanted to know about Titanic to one where everyone wants to be included and have their own Titanic story.”
HQ for all these Titanic stories will be the new visitor centre solely dedicated to (and resembling) the Titanic, where the drama continues with another two plays; ‘The Boat Factory’ by Dan Gordon and ‘Titans’ by Jimmy MacAleavey.
The ship’s history is also entwined in Dan Gordon’s family tree; his father worked as a joiner for Harland and Wolff.
“I’ve lived in the shadow of the boat factory all my life. I wanted to tell the story of the heritage and history that has all but disappeared and with it, the skills, the memories and the men who made it.
All this activity has enticed MTV to return to the city after their triumphant 2011 EMAs for a special Titanic Sounds gig in the . Mix that in with Eric Whitacre’s premiere of his third virtual choir in Titanic Belfast, the and ‘Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic’ at , and it’s safe to say, if you venture into Belfast, the rhythm is going to get you.
Award-winning broadcaster Peter Curran will also be remembering a century of music with ‘Songs to The Siren 1912-2012’;
“The amount of musical talent to come out of Northern Ireland from 1912 until now is remarkable. A century of brilliant words and music that have helped people through the tough times and the unexpected joys will be recalled during a musical journey…”
As you can imagine, the opportunity for a taste of the Titanic has not been squandered. Belfast’s foodie circle will be waiting to see if another pop-up restaurant will appear in the Titanic Quarter; last year it was in the Harland & Wolff Drawing Office. is offering a nine-course dinner based on the last meal served on the ship, while in Titanic Belfast itself, they have recreated the actual banqueting hall.
So short of sleeping on a Titanic-themed bed we’re pretty confident you will not get a more immersive Titanic experience anywhere else but in Belfast this year. Our excitement is so unwieldy that we’ve elbowed our way into Titanic Belfast for a sneak peek the day before the opening – and we’ll be doing a while we’re there.
That “something big on the horizon” that Susie felt – it’s real – and we’re going to step into it. On March 30th, we’ll marvel at the size and accomplishment of the new Titanic Belfast, just as the world did here 100 years before.
Do join us.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s going to be happening in Belfast come April. For full event details and listings see Titanic Belfast Festival, and NI 2012 Titanic Festival. And to make sure you know your Captain Smith from Thomas Andrews, brush up on all things Titanic and hear more stories about the great ship and connect with other fans on our Titanic Stories Facebook page.