Belfast Telegraph

Scrap Belfast's Orpheus building for new university campus? Have we learned nothing?

By Nuala McKeever

You can sort of see why people who haven't much going on in their lives can get all excited about putting up massive flags and building massive bonfires and attending massive marches with tiny flutes to play massively inappropriate music to wind up other people massively.

It's a sport. A diversion from the sameness of a dull life. It's somethin' to do now there's a quare stretch in the evenings and sure doesn't it get the childer out an' about?

Positive? No.

Destructive? Yes, mainly. It destroys community cohesion; loads of wood and tyres; the air; the environment; the aesthetics of the area and any hope of an inclusive, friendly society. It's a scab that keeps being picked year after year after year.

It's a shame.

However, what is less easy to understand, is how people with education, intelligence, money, privilege and opportunity, can a) think it's a good idea to destroy parts of Belfast and b) be allowed to do so willy-nilly.

The Orpheus building in York Street is going to be demolished to make way for the new University of Ulster campus on the site. The Orpheus was built in 1932. It used to house the Co-op. It then housed the art college. It still has beautiful panelling, staircases, stained glass windows and stunning plaster moulding on the top floor where the last 'ballroom of romance' in Belfast is still intact. It's a fine example of our built heritage.

And our planning department thinks it's a good idea to pull it down to make way for some new stuff.

What the hell is going on in the minds of people who think this is a good idea? Why the building isn't listed is a mystery to me. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society has applied for listing twice and both times it's been refused. The building sits on the edge of conservation areas. It's beside St Patrick's Church and St Anne's Cathedral. It could be the jewel in the crown of a bold new university construction, just as other modern university buildings have managed to save the old and incorporate them with the new. It's called continuum. It's called heritage. It's called appreciation of beauty.

Who runs our planning office? Have they any aesthetic nous at all? What value is placed upon our built heritage here?

Once it's gone it can't be brought back. Unlike the 12th of July, it doesn't come round every year. Maybe we're so enthralled by the Orange Order's idea of heritage and tradition, that we've forgotten that some things once eradicated don't bounce back up like Weebles.

I read that an HBO executive mentioned in an interview in the US that several of his colleagues were less than enamoured of having to spend six months living in Belfast while filming Game of Thrones. "It's not the most cosmopolitan place in the world," he said.

No, it's not. And that's fine. We're a small city built upon conservative history and struggling to emerge with a new, unique look and feel. We are getting there. We can get there. Ironically, it's the very Art Deco style of the Orpheus that was most associated with cosmopolitan cities in the past. Perhaps if we were to recognise and value what we have, we might actually attract that holy grail – praise from people of taste from abroad.

Do we really want everything in our city to look like everything everywhere else? One huge Titanic Quarter-style homogeneous, uninspiring swathe of glass and concrete blocks? No! Please contact the planning department and tell them you want the Orpheus saved.

 

Ugly side of the beautiful game

When your desire for football clashes with your responsibility towards your fellow human beings, which wins?

Seemingly the ‘beautiful’ game wins every time. Its beauty is tainted badly by the appalling inequalities in Brazil. It’s been paid for by money taken from public services when the government promised the new stadia would be funded by private backers.

Once again, the few profit from the misery of the many.

It may be very much a game of two halves but it’s certainly not a game of two haves. Does it matter who wins the cup when so many have nothing to put in theirs?

 

Why I’m sick of blinking cars

Glad to see the DRD thinking about taking on the Bus Lane Blinkers. Y’know, the drivers who zoom past you as you sit, stationary, in the car lane, in rush hour.

The drivers who obviously think they’re smarter than all the mugs playing by the rules.

The drivers who put on the left indicator and think that’s fooling the rest of us.

The same sort of drivers who think flashing the hazard lights allows them to park absolutely anywhere, anytime regardless how many other drivers they’re holding up.

I really hope the DRD puts in cameras and fines them all for being blinking selfish.

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