Virtual unreality

By Squinter

SQUINTER imagines everyone connected with the Titanic Signature Building (right) in the Titanic Quarter is praying that it will be open in time for the exact date of the sinking of the famous ship – which of course took place on the night of April 14/15 1912. The most that Squinter can establish is that it’s due to open some time in March, but since he can’t seem to locate an exact date he can only assume that no exact date has so far been nominated, which doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence that the April anniversary will be marked there. We live in hope.

Squinter learns that among the attractions in the striking new building – which the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has already and unequivocally declared “will become Northern Ireland’s largest and most successful built attraction” – is an interactive exhibition. Which is worrying. Because while it is going to be undeniably exciting to be allowed a virtual tour of the shipyard and ship, quite how they’re going to portray the experience of Catholics in the yard is not entirely clear.

Because while the Protestant workforce happily slept through their shifts,  waking only long enough to plunder offcut lino from the ship to lay in their terraced homes, the experience of Catholic workers was rather less idyllic. How, for example, will the interactive exhibition portray Catholics being thrown into Belfast Lough? How will it portray them being pelted with nuts and bolts – the Belfast Confetti of East Belfast legend? How, indeed, will it portray the fact that most Catholics weren’t allowed through the gates in the first place?

Squinter’s not hopeful that it will do any of these things, for at Belfast City Council’s taster Titanic exhibition at the Kennedy Centre, which Squinter visited this week, there’s not a word said about it; and if there’s not a word about it at an exhibition in the heart of West Belfast, Squinter’s not terribly confident that this particular bull will be grabbed by the horns on Queen’s Island.

But maybe he’s wrong. Maybe they’ll have a sign at the entrance to the new building reading ‘Warning: Some aspects of this exhibition may be upsetting or distressing, particularly for younger children and Catholics’. Or maybe they won’t.

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