I’ve just left a sold-out screening of Belfast in Glasgow City Centre and my heart is both warmed and a little sore. It is a beautiful love letter by Kenneth Branagh to the Northern Irish capital, sealed with a loving kiss in those final scenes and with a dedication which gave me a lump in my throat. The film showcases the best of Northern Irish, Irish and British talent with Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds and Dame Judi Dench starring. It also introduces the talented Jude Hill, who I’m sure has big things to come because with that cheeky grin of his and his playful nature on screen, he made me smile throughout. I could gush about the beautiful shots of Belfast City and the skilfully crafted relationships between generations and lovers which are cherished, as well as the gorgeous nostalgic shots from a child’s POV. The cast and crew of this production should be very proud and I can see why it’s tipped to clean up over award season.

So why you ask is my heart sore? Let me give you some context; I grew up in Northern Ireland, born in the 80’s and a child of the Peace Process. I didn’t experience Branagh’s Belfast. I lived in a border town in Tyrone and had a somewhat usual childhood bar the odd bomb scare, petrol bombed lorry and the nightly news stories. Think of me, more like one of Lisa McGee’s Derry Girl’s than Branagh’s Buddy. I moved to Belfast when I was 18 to go to University. I worked and made friends with both sides of the community, living in the South and East and seeing friends in the North and West of Belfast something which in the 70’s would have been almost impossible. I lived happily under the famous yellow cranes, I saw the Titanic Quarter regenerate and the tourists come flocking. I even got quite a few opportunities to be on the silver screen myself and ran into Mr. Branagh himself. I worked and party in Belfast, I grew up and I was surrounded by a community of family,friends, neighbours and colleagues who looked out for each other. 

But in November I too crossed the water for better opportunities but thankfully unlike Jamie Dornan’s character I was not forced to leave Northern Ireland because of impending threat, unfortunately I left because of the wonderful Cornavirus! If you’re a regular reader of my blog you will know I work in Arts Marketing and with theatres closed and struggling, the opportunities for my progression had been wiped out. So tonight I write this blog from my apartment in Glasgow and I reflect on what my ode to Belfast would be. I think I would need to thank the city for making me who I am now, for all the experiences I have had, good and bad, and I probably need to say a big thank you to friends, family and mentors from the whole of Northern Ireland. I’m just over two months into my Scottish adventure and I’m sure I will return to Northern Irish shores at some point to continue what I started but until then I will rely on a few flying visits (flights are a lot cheaper now) and like Branagh I will always be proud of where I’ve come from even if they think I talk funny!!

Highly recommend a visit to the cinema this weekend to support this gorgeous film and the NI film industry  just bring a few tissues and let me know what you think of Judi Dench’s Belfast accent! I think she nailed it!

Emer D xx

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