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A grand tour to fire the imagination: The Eleventh Night bonfires of Northern Ireland

Published 13/07/2016

A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man dampens down a building as a bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man dampens down a building as a bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man uses petrol to light a bonfire on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Highfield Estate bonfire in west Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
An 11th Night bonfire at Edgarstown, Portadown, covered in at leat 30 Sinn Fein and SDLP election posters. This follows a complaint to police about another bonfire in Portadown's Corcrain Estate as a hate crime by Sinn Fein.
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
Loyalists climb up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires with Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Two women take photographs of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. AFP/Getty Images
Children atop the huge bonfire in Sandy Row, Belfast with a banner displaying an offensive message directed at SDLP MLA Clare Hanna. PA
Loyalists gesture at the foot of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires after raising Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Loyalists gesture from the top of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires after raising Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence as Union flags flutter in the breeze beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Loyalists climb up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires with Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence as Union flags flutter in the breeze beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Foreign tourists take a tour past one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A man climbs up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A woman steps out of a taxi to take a photograph of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A woman walks past tables stacked with sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps as Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalist Peter Stenhouse carries a wooden pallet as he makes final preparations to a bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
File photo dated 10/07/16 of a completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as huge bonfires, are to be lit in loyalist communities across Northern Ireland ahead of the main date in the loyal order parading season - the Twelfth of July. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.Issue date: Monday July 11, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men stand on a bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A bonfire under construction near Chobam Street, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pacemaker Press 11/7/2016 A on looker watches on at the preparations the for 11th night Bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn, ahead of the 12th of July celebration across Northern Ireland. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 11/7/2016 Preparations the for 11th night Bonfire at Donegall Road in Belfast, ahead of the 12th of July celebration across Northern Ireland. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near Sandy Row in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near the Comber Greenway in east Belfast, blocking a cycle path leading into the city Swings and a climbing frame have been removed from a £250,000 playground next to the Comber Greenway in east Belfast because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire. Homes and windows are being boarded up near the bonfire. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near the Comber Greenway in east Belfast, blocking a cycle path leading into the city Swings and a climbing frame have been removed from a £250,000 playground next to the Comber Greenway in east Belfast because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire. Homes and windows are being boarded up near the bonfire. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Sunday 10th July 2016 The Bonfire at Drumtara, Ballee, in Ballymena which is stacked with tyres.
The Edgarstown bonfire in Portadown in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Photo: PressEye
The Edgarstown bonfire in Portadown in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Photo: PressEye
Ballycraigy bonfire in Antrim
Pacemaker Press Belfast 08-07-2016: Bonfire in the Loyalist Ballybeen estate in Dundonald, close the Parliament buidlings, Stormont. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 08-07-2016: Bonfire in the Loyalist Ballybeen estate in Dundonald, close the Parliament buidlings, Stormont. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th July A bonfire is prepared on the Milltown Road in south Belfast ahead of the 11th night bonfire celebrations which will take place across Northern Ireland this Monday night. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Credit - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast, UK - July 07 , Tyres on the Ballybeen Bonfire in Dundonald on July 07, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Credit - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast, UK - July 07 , Tyres on the Ballybeen Bonfire in Dundonald on July 07, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Pacemaker Press 5/7/2016 Preparations get well under way at Chobham Street Bonfire in East Belfast, on the run up to The 12th of July. Pic Pacemaker

Some bonfires made headlines for all the wrong reasons, but Belfast-based artist Bronagh Lawson maintains the vast majority are important cultural symbols.

On the Eleventh Night she visited as many as possible, from Ballyhalbert to Carrickfergus via Belfast, encountering excited German schoolchildren visiting the pyres as a tourist attraction... and local young people proud of their workmanship.

Why did I start documenting the bonfires? Living in east Belfast as I do, I had noticed while cycling up and down the Comber Greenway the fun people who were building them were having, but then I saw on social media how they were being depicted.

Later I noticed the protests at City Hall around giving financial support to bonfire management. People are not seeing the whole picture, I thought. It was as if one bonfire with a tricolour and a few Sinn Fein posters was representative of every single one, whereas what I was seeing was telling me this was not the case. So I decided to make an effort to document every one, from Ballybeen to the inner east.

This year I swooped up to the Ards Peninsula early on the Eleventh and tried to get to most bonfires, from Ballyhalbert to Carrickfergus. Knowing that I'd miss a few, I did my best to honour the hard work of the bonfire builders (it's the artist in me) and the difficult cultural circumstances and positions each is built in.

The first one I came across was in Ballyhalbert, echoing the pallet fires better known in an urban environment. I considered just how spectacular it must look while burning against the backdrop of the Irish Sea. In Ballywalter, perched on a rock for as long as anyone can remember, the pyre echoes the shape of Mont Saint-Michel and is reflected in the ebbing tide.

Millisle, surrounded by wildflowers, was the first and only one I saw with a tricolour that day. I wondered if the builders knew, as I did not know until this year, that the white in the centre of the flag was to represent the peace between the orange and green?

In Newtownards, town of my birth, the council there has found a way to make it work - a large tower of a bonfire sat locked behind gates with a sign reading, 'This bonfire is regularly monitored for fly-tipping and illegal dumping, you will be reported to the council'. It seemed to have sorted the issue somewhat, with only one sofa outside the gates and everything orderly inside. It had the added benefit of being right opposite a fire station.

Ballybeen in Dundonald next, with front row seats laid out to watch the bonfire. I wondered what conversations took place the night before as people sat in the cool July evening air, the light night stretching out as the final preparations were made for the next day. Across the hill in Ballybeen, no Portacabin and toilet in the pallet bonfire this year, but wood and, sadly, tyres.

Tullycarnet site, now with houses built on it, had a hipster GroundworkNI bonfire in situ. Off the ring road, it still had a way to go with the construction. It was all open-ended to the sky, front row seats laid out from the night before, builders' gloves waiting for the next burst of energy and direction.

The bonfire at Roden Street
The bonfire at Roden Street
Ballywalter bonfire
Millisle bonfire
Front row seats at the part
Paddy Campbell and young German tourists
Lord Street hipster bonfire
An overseas photographer in the Village
Impromtu bar at Carrickfergus site
Bronagh Lawson

No one was up yet at Sandy Row's main bonfire site, a spectacular size with some pallets still waiting to be added - they probably didn't want to tempt fate and encourage people to burn down the finished article early like last year perhaps?

I decided to swoop across to the lower Shankill next and came across Paddy Campbell, who is described on his card as 'a guide to Falls and Shankill murals up close and personal'. He was giving a tour to German secondary school children from Bavaria, laminated photographs of a lit bonfire in hand.

They had come to Ireland especially at this time of year for four days to experience it in all its glory: one day in Belfast, two in Portrush, one in Dublin, then home. My head hurt just thinking about it. The tour guide was explaining that the bonfire was a cultural tradition of a display of Britishness, that the lower Shankill perceived itself as British, so its community did it, and the lower Falls not, as its residents did not.

One German schoolgirl asked if there had ever been a vote for independence, to which he explained: "Independence for Northern Ireland, no, we could not afford to keep ourselves, but Brexit has changed everything in terms of a united Ireland."

He went on: "It's all to do with the money in your pocket. If it meant that I'd be financially better off with a united Ireland, then fine, but I'd still be culturally British within it."

That's the first time I've heard anyone in that area say that.

Going down the motorway towards the Rise sculpture at Broadway roundabout, I noticed another sculpture of sorts, a bonfire poking out from behind the wall, and decided to track it down. Turning down into the Donegall Road I came across some neatly stacked pallets on wasteland beside a terraced house. A young man came out. I asked what he thought of it. "I'm not sure," he said. "They arrived last night. Are they protesting about something?"

I discovered he and his friend were visiting from Italy for one week, staying in a house nearby, and had no idea of the cultural significance of the season (I blame AirBnB). I explained what it was and when it was likely to be lit.

"We really like the Titanic part of Belfast," they said. "It's a really interesting city, we are going with a friend to Cave Hill today by bike to view it."

Down Roden Street the bouncy castles, barbecues and play buses were in full swing, children in plastic bubbles playing in paddling pools. A woman in her early thirties walked me down to where the bonfire was, the one that was poking over the motorway. "My son has been building the one in the Village," she said proudly. "Have you been to it? They are only 12 and 13-years-old and they did it all by themselves," she added, showing me pictures of it on her phone.

The young men were busy trying to finish off their bonfire. They scurried up the edifice, pallets in hand, and the building of Egypt's pyramids came to my mind. Wishing them good luck, I set off to find the Village bonfire.

There it was in all its glory, on waste ground. I noted some new housing had been built since the last time I was in the area. A smaller children's bonfire was also ready at the side for an earlier lighting time.

An overseas photographer was lining up children on the bonfire eager to get their photos taken. "We did it all ourselves," they said. "Collected by hand, using no nails. Is the picture going to be in the Belfast Telegraph?"

"It's going to be lit at 12," they said, excitedly dancing around.

Back on Donegall Road, the guys at the end of the terrace had returned to their bonfire, posing for photos. "Stop you posing," one guy quipped. "I'm not posing, I'm just updating my snapchat," the other replied.

Up the Shore Road there was bonfire after bonfire of every shape and size, with no flags or election posters in sight.

In Carrickfergus, while asking if I could take photos, a wee boy of six took me on a tour. "I got stuck in the mud over there, don't go that way; there is a bouncy castle coming at 11.30," he told me eagerly.

He was keen to show me the bar that had been built out of pallets. "You have to be careful, people get the drink in them on the Eleventh and you never know what might happen," he said.




































In Pitt Park, in east Belfast, they were still hard at work on their bonfire. A car pulled up to the crossroads from the Short Strand and occupants shouted abuse at the people making it. Music blared, the bonfire had two Sinn Fein posters on it, the only ones I saw that day, and there was much work still to do with a team of men and boys of all ages hurrying to finish it off, while a young man sat in the gated-off memorial in Pitt Park, just by himself, looking forlorn in the urban landscape.

In Madrid Street they were waiting until the last minute to build theirs. Some young mothers were sitting under a gazebo with their babies, as older children played on the bouncy castle. A large tricolour could be seen on the Short Strand side of the street. The young women said the fire would be lit at around 7.30pm for the kids, the men said 11pm.

In Lord Street they were all happy and organised with their hipster bonfire designed by GroundworkNI, with music starting at 7pm. "If anyone wants a bigger bonfire they can go outside of the city, we have no room here, it's starting early because it's for the kids really," they said. I told them theirs was the most family friendly I had experienced last year.

The Cluan Place bonfire had been built earlier than usual, with a guy over from Scotland for the occasion keeping guard and a DJ blaring music.

The Comber Greenway bonfire builders were still hard at work. "Are you a tourist?" one child asked. "No, I'm an artist," I replied.

"If you take a photo, will you do it in black and white and have it all grainy please?" he asked. I thought it interesting that this child seemed to be placing himself in some historical visual context.

Off I went back down the Ards Peninsula, knowing that the bonfire builders had more stamina than me, interested that tourist tours were already happening, and very aware that in every case it was young men I saw doing all the work. Verdict on my Bonfire Watch 2016? Still a way to go and part of an evolution; now, where is that Bonfire Interpretation Centre economic appraisal?

Bronagh Lawson is based at Creative Change NI, www.creativechangeni.com

Belfast Telegraph

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