Belfast Telegraph

Queen's visit set to crown Titanic year as city comes into its own

By Raymond Kilpatrick

In the year 2011 Northern Ireland made headlines across the world for all the right reasons - and 2012's bill looks set to repeat the feat with another Titanic year ahead.

The visit by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to the Republic of Ireland in May was the first by a British monarch since independence and came 100 years after King George V walked on Irish soil.

Prime Minister David Cameron referred to the Queen's visit to Ireland as a "game-changer" in British-Irish relations.

And the spin-off from it bodes well for Northern Ireland in 2012. The royal couple will visit the province this year as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Two months ago it was another Queen which drew the crowds on a much-anticipated visit.

Excitement levels reached fever pitch in November when global superstars Queen, plus Lady Gaga and Katy Perry strutted their stuff at Belfast's Odyssey Arena for the MTV European Music Awards.

The country was engulfed in MTV mania in the days leading up to the glitzy showpiece with the eyes of the world firmly fixed on Belfast on the night of the event.

Home-grown heroes Snow Patrol had the city centre rocking with a unique outdoor event at the City Hall to coincide with the ceremony which drew tens of thousands of fans who soaked up the feel-good factor which had spread throughout the province.

Given the success of Belfast's hosting of the event, MTV vowed to return with their cameras for a very special show in honour of Northern Ireland's most famous export - the Titanic.

A number of stars have been lined up for the gig which will take place in the docks where the iconic liner was built.

This year marks the centenary of the ill-fated voyager's maiden journey on April 15, 1912.

More than 1,500 people perished in the disaster when the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time went down after striking an iceberg when travelling between Southampton and New York.

Nearly 35,000 Titanic enthusiasts have already pre-ordered tickets to tour a new £90m visitor attraction dedicated to the doomed liner.

More than 400,000 are expected to pay a visit in its first year when Titanic Belfast is launched in March.

The eye-catching building, which is made up of 3,000 aluminium panels shaped to resemble the vessel's hull and prow, has been built on the exact spot where the liner was first rolled into the water in 1911. Its creators describe Titanic Belfast as a "must see" visit in any tour of Belfast and Northern Ireland and is expected to draw Titanic enthusiasts from across the world.

In November, National Geographic identified Titanic Belfast as the main attraction for visitors to look forward to in 2012, after naming the city among the world's top 20 travel destinations for the year, describing it as "a capital city of Titanic ambition that is redefining itself in the eyes of the world".

The building will also house temporary exhibits, a 1,000-seat banqueting suite, education and community facilities, catering and retail space and a basement car park.

Visitors will learn about the construction of RMS Titanic and the wide and rich story of Northern Ireland's industrial and maritime heritage.

Supported by the Northern Ireland Executive, Titanic Belfast is a unique public/private partnership funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour and Titanic Quarter Ltd. It is operated by Titanic Belfast Ltd and will be owned by the Titanic Foundation Ltd.

Additional space will be devoted to community arts and education facilities; a large gallery for temporary exhibitions, performances and meetings; cafes, restaurants and shops; and the Titanic Suite (1,000-seat capacity suite banqueting/conference centre).

Existing attractions are also expected to do well out of the increased influx of visitors and the usual festivals, fleadhs and public holiday celebrations are expected to be better attended than ever before.

Belfast Telegraph

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