The Royal wedding celebrations are coming to the nationalist heartland of west Belfast, with residents planning a ground-breaking cross-community street party in honour of William and Kate.
Union Jack bunting and flags will adorn the streets of Andersonstown as part of an effort to bring local people together to celebrate the big day.
The party, organised by the Suffolk-Lenadoon Interface Group (SLIG), aims to attract well-wishers from both sides of the community and is the first of its kind in the predominantly nationalist area.
While the wedding service itself will not be shown on a big screen, residents have been invited to watch a football match between Suffolk FC and St Oliver Plunkett FC from Lenadoon.
Tea and scones, bingo, a teenagers’ disco and live music from the Upper Falls Protestant Boys’ flute band will also take place on the day.
Invitations to the Royal wedding event have been handed out in the Lenadoon estate and organisers say they are hopeful that |locals will attend.
Community worker Joe Hamill said the street party represented the “next step” for the troubled interface.
“This is very much testing the waters for us.
“It’s the first time an event connected to the Royals has been organised on a cross-community basis,” he added.
“If you’re picking an event to bridge boundaries between Protestants and Catholics, this is probably one of the most difficult.
“Young people in Lenadoon have indicated to me that they will at least come along and see what it is like.”
Bernard Conlon of SLIG said he thought it might be a stage too far to screen the wedding ceremony live on Friday morning. “It’s a tentative first step — I don’t know how many people from Lenadoon will be coming along to celebrate,” he said.
“We will be having things like bunting, flags and Union Jack plates. It’s not about trying to sanitise our traditions, but helping others to accept it.”
The neighbouring Suffolk and Lenadoon estates have become an important focus for cross-community work after years of sectarian violence during the Troubles.
Relationships between locals have been tense for decades, with a number of clashes between young people along the Stewartstown Road.
Sinn Fein MLA Sue Ramsey said holding a Royal wedding event at the interface was a positive move. She added: “Personally, I’ve no interest in the Royal wedding, but I think we should encourage this kind of cross-community party.”
The Suffolk-Lenadoon interface in outer west Belfast has been blighted by sectarian violence since the early years of the Troubles.
Suffolk, a small Protestant community in a predominantly Catholic area, has around 800 residents and high levels of economic and social deprivation.
The bordering Lenadoon |estate is much larger, with around 10,000 residents, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 40.
When community leaders |finally met in 1996, there had been no contact between the two estates for more than 20 years.
The Suffolk-Lenadoon Interface Group (SLIG) is owned by the two community organisations in the Andersonstown area — Lenadoon Community Forum and Suffolk Community Forum.
Fountain to make a big splash
By Teresa McGowan
Community centres in Londonderry are planning to ring in William and Kate's wedding in right Royal fashion tomorrow.
Thanks to a £1,000 grant from Derry City Council, Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain Estate will be turned into Westminster Abbey from 8.30am tomorrow with the matrimonial ceremony being screened over a ‘Royal breakfast’ and watched by people in full Royal wedding attire.
The cross-community event will also be attended by women from the nationalist side of the community.
Organiser Jeanette Warke said the invite to come and have fun was open to all.
She said women from the nationalist community had said they would attend to check out what the bride and guests would be wearing.
“This is just a bit of fun. The girls will be watching it just to see the style,” Jeanette said.
“I have invited all the women from our community education classes and everyone of all creeds and colours to come along and watch on a big screen.”
A family fun day will follow and 100 balloons will be released from the west bank estate after the newlyweds tie the knot.
Jeanette, who is also project director of the youth club, said: “We are really looking forward to it.
“It will be a fantastic day in the Fountain with outdoor activities and two limos to take our very own bride and groom lookalikes of Katie and Wills through the area.”
Making it a truly festive occasion, there will be a competition for best-dressed guest, best hat and best little prince and princess for the children. There will also be a bouncy castle and face-painting. Other celebrations will be staged in the Waterside area of the city, including Newbuildings and Irish Street, where a street party is being organised by the East Bank Protestant Boys Band.