Thursday 4 December 2008

Shankill – 'Original Belfast'?

Being Communications has launched a 'brand' for the Shankill – essentially just a logo and a slogan. The logo is, unimaginatively, just a union jack the slogan 'Original Belfast' on it.

Given that the Shankill is not short of union jack flags, the (publicly funded?) logo seems superfluous, not to mention overly political, as the union jack is very closely identified with the loyalist murderers for whom the Shankill is famous. Mark Thompson, design director with Being Communications who designed the brand, said that "The Shankill name is world famous. We should take advantage of that." Well, it is, of course, world famous, but not in a good way! It is known as a hotbed of loyalist extremism, murder, drug-dealing and sectarianism – usually illustrated in the world's media with a host of union jacks, just like the logo that Mr Thompson has designed.

Thompson is, of course, more than just a mere designer of pseudo-political logos, he is also Chairman of the Ulster-Scots Agency, and thus an active player in Northern Ireland's culture wars.

The logo was launched in the Shankill Library and endorsed by politicians including Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Nigel Dodds.

At the launch Arlene Foster said that "all the great cities throughout the world have different parts to their cities. If you go to New York for example, there's Brooklyn and the Bronx, in London there's Covent Garden and Soho. We are hoping when people come to Belfast they will go to the Titanic Quarter and the Shankill and get that authentic feeling of Belfast."

So the Minister for Enterprise wants visitors to go to the Titanic Quarter (in unionist East Belfast) and the Shankill (the unionist part of West Belfast). Is she the Minister for all the people, or just unionists?

Foster also said that she thought the new brand identified what the Shankill was about. On that, she is pretty much correct – nothing much other than flag-waving.

So the unionists' obsession with pushing their flag into the faces of those who do not want it, is being continued through the guise of 'tourism'. Foster, and all of those other people involved in this project, know that the T-shirts emblazoned with the Shankill logo will be (and are probably intended to be) de facto loyalist uniforms. No tourist should be encouraged to buy them without being made ware that they are, in effect, being used as weapons in a seedy culture war.


Dan O'Neill said...

Nice article. However, unfortunately the term Union Jack (although used frequently by everyone from the BBC to normal people on the street) is not correct. The Union Flag is only called the Union Jack when it is on a ship. On the jack mast... Still nice article all the same.

Anonymous said...

Why 'since AD 455'? Is that the foundation date of Belfast or of the Shankill.

I assume that AD 455 would be the foundation of Beal Feirste, the Irish settlement?

Cymro |Welshman

Anonymous said...

... sorry, just read the accompanying article which states that Shankill comes from the Irish for 'old church' founded in 455 ... which just makes the Union Flag (1801) look just a bit, erm, recent and ignoring about 1200 years of history?


Anonymous said...

The Union Flag is part of the history of the Shankill Road and it can't just be airbrushed out of history because some people find it distasteful. There are many other designs for the Shankill Tourism project, many of them less "offensive", but this was a launch and they wanted into the paper, bright colours are always going to look better in print than the other subtle designs that were available.
The 1200 intervening years have not been ignored, the idea of the project is to let people know of the whole history of the Shankill not just the bad parts.