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How Hannah fell in love with the ballroom of romance

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 28/05/2016

Hannah Woodside
Hannah Woodside

That old saying about one being nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth takes a new twist today, and it's all about a model indoor patch in honour of the lamented Orpheus Ballroom of Romance which once adorned the top floor of the old Co-op building in Belfast's York Street, long since gone.

The ballroom, opened in the Thirties, was named after the mythical Greek musician and poet who charmed all living things with his divine singing that persuaded the Underworld's God of the Dead to allow the wife of Orpheus, Eurydice, to return to him from Hades to where she had been condemned.

Now art student Hannah Woodside has launched a unique campaign to make sure the ballroom, where Dave Glover and his Band used to play, is never forgotten. Never mind the words in the thesis she is writing, this young woman has planted a garden of flourishing flowers and veg in a room of the Ulster University building, directly across York Street from where the Co-op and the Orpheus once stood. And placed aptly at a bay window to catch the sun.

Hannah, in her final year of study at the university, was inspired to write her tribute and build the garden, using rubble collected from the debris of the ballroom, because she actually began her studies in the old Orpheus when the building was being used by the university.

Right now, as she continues to write the tale of Orpheus, she is anxious to hear from folk who danced there and sometimes fell in love and have stories to tell.

Hannah is hoping those who stepped out in the quickstep or the moonlight saunter might be able to give her some old posters for those evenings promoted by the late Jim Aiken, who loved the place, even though he was one of Ireland's worst dancers. If you want to reminisce with her about the Orpheus, contact Hannah on tel: 07875 376334.

What people forget about the Orpheus is that during the day it was transformed into a lunchtime eatery, serving up delicious three-course meals for as little as half-a-crown (12p in today's money).

Belfast Telegraph

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