Belfast’s vibrant Cathedral Quarter is the focus in the second of our new series, the Seven Wonders of Northern Ireland which highlights its beauty, its culture and its people.
Everyone is familiar with the Seven Wonders of the World lists, both modern and ancient, and this newspaper feels that we should promote those aspects of life here which make the province such an attractive destination to visit or place to live in — the true wonders of Northern Ireland.
By Laurence Over the next month or so prominent personalities will be telling readers why they feel a special attachment to Northern Ireland.
At the end of the series we will be asking readers to vote on which attraction they feel best represents Northern Ireland and those votes, along with the views of a specially selected panel, will decide what truly are the Seven Wonders of Northern Ireland.
These advocates include President Mary McAleese, the first person from Northern Ireland to hold the post, who enthuses about her home village of Rostrevor; Dennis Taylor, the former snooker world champion who loves the humour of Ulster people; Eamonn Holmes who feels there is nowhere like home and Lord Eames who loves sailing on Strangford Lough — and many more.
Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, quite naturally, is also an advocate for the beauty of Northern Ireland and the warmth of its people and is keen to highlight the on-going initiatives to make it a more attractive tourist destination.
She says: “This is a very exciting time for tourism in Northern Ireland. We are currently developing a number of signature projects which we expect to attract visitors from all over the world.
“One of the key projects will be the Titanic Project which will soon become one of the province's must-see attractions. Alongside this, Londonderry will be delivering a range of fantastic events to celebrate its status as UK City of Culture in 2013.”
‘We now have a thriving cultural quarter’
Martin Lynch is one of Northern Ireland’s most acclaimed playwrights, with successes ranging from A History of the Troubles According to Me Da to co-writing the George Best musical, Dancing Shoes. Here he talks about his choice: Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.
I was born and brought up in Moffat Street near where the Yorkgate shopping centre now stands. As a young boy I remember running through the cobbled streets of what is now the Cathedral Quarter. We used to collect orange boxes from Woolworths in High Street or a fruit shop in Rosemary Street, take them home and chop them up for firewood which we would then sell around the locality.
In the 1980s and 90s there was only one public house, the Duke of York, in what is now the Cathedral Quarter, and Nick’s restaurant had just opened. In my work with the Community Arts Forum I had travelled to other cultural quarters in various parts of the UK and I wrote a paper which I sent to the Department of the Environment suggesting the creation of a similar arts and cultural area in Belfast.
Thankfully that suggestion has been acted upon and now we have a thriving cultural quarter.
Indeed, my present office is in a building shared with other arts organisations in the Cathedral Quarter.
It is now one of the most popular areas of the city, full of entertainment and home to several cultural festivals each year.
And it also has another pub, the John Hewitt, run by the Unemployed Centre, which means that I can salve my social conscience and indulge my debauchery in one fell swoop.”
How you can shape the Seven Wonders
So what do you, the reader, think makes Northern Ireland special?
As our series runs every day over the next month we invite readers to vote on which landmark or aspect of life here as detailed by our celebrity contributors that they most agree with.
At the conclusion of the series this will enable us to draw up a list of the Seven Wonders of Northern Ireland — the things that really make Northern Ireland great.
Your choices can be sent to Belfast Telegraph, 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1EB or alternatively send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org