06 Mar 2012, 1047hrs
Written by: RW
Conflict in Northern Ireland has left a legacy of social segregation within North Belfast; inequalities have perpetuated resistance to change. The housing estates of Tiger’s Bay, Ardoyne, Westland and Ballysilan have experienced their own unique issues that have, until recent years, prolonged a reluctance to embrace a way forward.
Evidence of change has become, therefore, all the more poignant. Through a positive shift in will, fuelled by strong community leadership, support for organisational and social transition in North Belfast now exists. Central to this has been the work of the North Belfast Community Development Transition Group.
Over seven years great progress has been made. Working in partnership with voluntary and statutory agencies and liaising with community leaders, the Group has facilitated consultations, drafted plans and progressed real–life projects, helping change happen.
We were asked to develop a document that would record and celebrate some of the work done to date; that would recognise a “work–in–progress” and capture how a shift has been embraced by the communities of North Belfast. Documentary Photographer Adam Patterson was commissioned to capture a community in the midst of change. Adam’s work often documents situations where social issues are precarious. What he brought back was a remarkable, often touching, collection of images taken around the Northern estates.
We felt it important that whatever we do should be received as the authentic voice of the people of North Belfast. So, for example, we decided that we wouldn’t typeset the text conventionally. Instead each word was painstakingly tapped out on a vintage typewriter. We chose a format that would keep images true to how Adam had taken them, on square format transparency. Photo captions were all written by hand.
In exploring the content, it soon became evident that there were three key areas for change: the physical change in these environments, the organisational change occurring within its institutions and the feeling and attitudes of the community. So we split the piece into three separate books. The three books are then wrapped in the forward before being slipped into a screen–printed sleeve made from greyboard.
Our overall goal was to create an artefact that demanded interaction; that captured a moment in time but that also represented communities in a state of flux. It’s hard for the reader to quickly flick through the piece. That was intentional. To understand the piece fully the reader must engage with it physically.