Belfast Telegraph

Did we really need a replica of class system on Titanic?

By Gail Walker

Open to the public only a few days and already Belfast's new Titanic centre promises to be a major triumph and a critical success.

Nine exhibitions spread over four storeys charting the history of the ship from its construction in Harland&Wolff to its sinking in the North Atlantic have been greeted with enthusiasm. Most people have been stunned by the intricate replicas of the ship. However, one thing we didn't expect to see replicated was the Titanic's class-consciousness.

While most of the exhibits are open to the public, it seems that the reproduction of the world famous staircase is not part of the package. No, incorporated into the banqueting hall, the staircase will only be for the business-type class of person for sit-down functions. Mmm ... not sure that's such a good move. Second to the Titanic actually sinking on that cold April night, the most iconic image of the ship is the staircase: a symbol of the elegance of the Titanic, it hugeness, its vastness, and also its period obsession with social rank and, yes, class.

It is no accident that James Cameron's 1997 movie Titanic ends not with the sinking but with a re-united Kate and Leo being greeted by the passengers and crew as they ascend said staircase. In other words, the staircase is part and parcel of the myth. As £60m of the total £97m cost came from the taxpayer, surely we should all be allowed to see the staircase?

Especially when a family will be splashing out a small fortune for a day in the complex (tickets, eats, mementoes - I'm sure you're looking at the guts of £100). Moreover, the social embargo on the staircase can't possibly be maintained - better to find a dignified way to rectify the error quietly now than have some ignominious climbdown later. The Titanic complex is a magnificent achievement. It belongs to each of us.

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