Game of Thrones: Westeros lands in Belfast
Stars of HBO series launch exhibition devoted to show
Stars of the hit TV series Game of Thrones have stormed Belfast as a major exhibition returned to the city for a second year.
Ian McElhinney — better known to millions of fans as Barristan Selmy — was among the famous faces striding down the red carpet at the Waterfront Hall.
Around 11,000 visitors are expected to experience what the world of Westeros has to offer over the next four days.
This year's display will focus on the storyline and events of series three of Game of Thrones and features more than 100 original artifacts including costumes, weapons, armour and — of course — model dragons.
Also present at last night’s launch were the First and Deputy First Ministers.
Peter Robinson said it was tremendous news that Belfast had secured the Game of Thrones exhibition for a second time.
“Game of Thrones is an amazing show made in spectacular locations across Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Its incredible success, its vast size and scale, coupled with Northern Ireland’s expertise and input to the series, is sending out a very strong message about our capabilities in the film and TV industries.”
Martin McGuinness said: “I am delighted to see the red carpet rolled out for this exhibition launch bringing some of the Game of Thrones magic to the Waterfront and to the city of Belfast.”
In the five years since Game of Thrones began filming here, the biggest TV production in Europe has become big news for the local economy, bringing a direct economic benefit of £80m.
Local companies are reaping the benefits of the phenomenon, with scaffolders, joiners and welders all getting a slice of the fantasy action drama.
Filming at locations including the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Tollymore Forest Park in Co Down and Downhill Beach in Co Londonderry has also helped spawn an industry of coach tours and ‘staycations’.
At a panel discussion ahead of the new exhibition, Fergus McNulty, an armoury model maker,
and Carla Stronge, founder of Extras NI, said that the business benefits of the show were clear.
Ms Stronge said that Game of Thrones had enabled her to set up her casting agency at home after years spent living in London.
“When I started up in 2007 there were just two people working in my company,” she said. “Since Game of Thrones started, I have had to take on more people and now there are 11 people working for me, most of those taken on in one three-month period.”
Mr McNulty said that many sectors were benefiting , including firms based in Sydenham Business Park in east Belfast, close to Titanic Studios and the Paint Hall where much filming takes place.
“There are people setting up their own small businesses off the back of Game of Thrones” he said.
Fans can step into a world of fantasy
Reporter Rebecca Black gets a sneak preview of props and costumes used on hit series
Teetering on the edge of a narrow wooden platform at the peak of a vast frozen wall hundreds of feet above the ground, I clung on to railings as a ferocious wind whistled past my head.
In reality, I may have been in Belfast yesterday morning but for one terrifying moment I was part of the hardened core of the Night's Watch – guards who protect the fictional kingdom of Westeros from the sort of creatures that terrify children in fairytales.
Back on the platform, I momentarily forgot my terror as I watched fascinated as flame balls soared into the air and wondered if they were fireworks, or maybe distress flares from rangers patrolling the wild lands north of the wall. As one came closer it became apparent they were flaming arrows, a realisation I came to as I was hit and toppled, falling to my virtual death.
The new Game of Thrones exhibition promised to give fans the chance to experience the hit HBO show and during a sneak preview yesterday, I certainly got that.
Even the lobby of the Waterfront Hall in Belfast has been decorated with the banners of the various families who compete in the power struggle which is the central plot of Game of Thrones. HBO explained that the exhibition is a thank you to their devoted fans. Tickets were free and snapped up within two hours of being made available.
Belfast hosted a Game of Thrones exhibition last year, but this year it is back even bigger and better, featuring more than 100 original artefacts. The model of the famous Iron Throne is bound to be one of the most popular exhibits.
And the magnificent costumes worn by some of the female characters are also incredible to see close up, while male fans will be more drawn to the weapon display of painstakingly crafted crossbows, daggers and swords.
The Game of Thrones exhibition will be running at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast until Sunday. It will then travel on to thrill fans in New York, Mexico, Austin, Rio de Janeiro, Oslo, Toronto and Vancouver.