Cathedral Quarter in Belfast

Wednesday, 8 June 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
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St. Anne Catherdal - flickr.com - Stuart/cc-by-sa-2.0

St. Anne Catherdal – flickr.com – Stuart/cc-by-sa-2.0

The Cathedral Quarter (Irish: Ceathrú na hArdeaglaise) in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a developing area of the city, roughly situated between Royal Avenue near where the Belfast Central Library building is, and the Dunbar Link in the city centre. From one of its corners, the junction of Royal Avenue, Donegall Street and York Street, the Cathedral Quarter lies south and east. Part of the area, centred on Talbot Street behind the cathedral, was formerly called the Half Bap. The “Little Italy” area was on the opposite side of Great Patrick Street centred on Little Patrick Street and Nelson Street. The Cathedral Quarter extends out to the edge of what can be referred as the old merchant quarter of the city. Past where the merchant area meets the Cathedral Quarter is still mostly merchant trade and services orientated and undeveloped for visitor services. The Cathedral Quarter is so called because St Anne’s Cathedral, a Church of Ireland cathedral, lies at its heart.

Traditionally, the Cathedral Quarter was the centre of Belfast’s trade and warehousing district, which sprung up directly from the prosperous linen and shipbuilding industries. The quarter still retains some of Belfast’s oldest buildings and thoroughfares, including Waring Street and Hill Street. The area fell into decline in the last century, but more recently it has re-emerged as a dedicated ‘cultural quarter’ of Belfast. Areas such as North Street are still in a state of dilapidation, but are likely to be redeveloped along with the rest of the quarter.

The definition of the area as a cultural quarter mostly came about because of the recent significant growth in arts- and culture-based organisations that are located there. As is the case with London’s Covent Garden and Dublin’s Temple Bar in the years before they became as renowned as they are, low rent and a central city location attracted to the area a wide variety of tenants. Some examples include Northern Visions TV (a.k.a. Belfast Community Television), The Safehouse Arts Gallery (and its parent organisation Community Visual Images), Belfast Print Workshop and Belfast’s small Zen Meditation community, which has its headquarters at Black Mountain Zen Centre (a.k.a. Belfast Meditation Centre) in rooms in Cathedral Buildings, opposite St. Anne’s. Dilapidated infrastructure, however, prevented any sort of mass repopulation of the area until recently. Development and repopulation may further have been hindered from a time since the North Street Arcade, a listed building from the 1930s in the traditional Art Deco style, burned down in what many people believe were suspicious circumstances in 2004.

A rich literary heritage is evident in the area. The Northern Whig was a popular satirical newspaper in the 19th century (very much in the same vein as Punch), with its headquarters on the corner of Waring Street and Bridge Street, opposite the Assembly Rooms. Today, The Northern Whig building is a pub and restaurant, but the tradition of satirical writing still has a home in Cathedral Quarter through The Vacuum, which has its offices in the area. Cathedral Quarter is very close to both the Belfast Central Library building and the headquarters of local newspaper publication the Belfast Telegraph. The Sunday World has its Belfast offices in Commercial Court in the Cathedral Quarter. Another newspaper, the Belfast News Letter, formerly had its headquarters on Donegall Street. The Irish News, another well-known newspaper, still has its head office on Donegall Street. As if to connect with this literary flavour, a popular pub in the area is named after Belfast poet John Hewitt. The John Hewitt houses noteworthy and interesting artwork and photographs in changing exhibitions, sometimes of political subjects, often with the art being for sale. As well there is a particular small-but-significant political display installation, and some cuttings about the poet John Hewitt.

Commercial Court - geograph.co.org - Aubrey Dale/cc-by-2.0 Graffiti on North Street Arcade on Donegall Street © Icanseeformilesandmiles North Street Arcade on Donegall Street © Fattonyni/cc-by-sa-4.0 Royal Avenue © flickr.com - William Murphy/cc-by-2.0 St. Anne Catherdal - flickr.com - Stuart/cc-by-sa-2.0 Statue Custom House Square Belfast © geograph.org.uk - Albert Bridge/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Statue Custom House Square Belfast © geograph.org.uk - Albert Bridge/cc-by-sa-2.0
Belfast’s Custom House, situated on the very edge of Cathedral Quarter by the city’s central Laganside bank, was a popular site for public speakers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those times, in the vein of London’s Speakers’ Corner, the city’s citizens often participated in the art of lively and spontaneous debate on any given subject. Today, in the site’s reincarnation as Custom House Square, activities can be widely varied, from more pedestrian and family-orientated performances and activities to large-scale music concerts, D.J. performances and circus-style performance events for both adults and children. In autumn 2008, a showcase style afternoon with a succession of performers of roots, modern folk and country music from all over the world was hosted in tents. This is a characteristic type of occasion in Custom House Square which happens quite a number of times each year. This occasion was the closing day of the internationally highly acclaimed annual Open House Festival of the city. The festival takes place in many venues, including others within Cathedral Quarter, and its presence within marquees in Custom House Square in 2008 included an international festival of chilli peppers and chilli dishes.

The annual Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in late Spring is one of the larger of the city’s many cultural festivals. This festival has become internationally recognised and attracts a good number of international performers. Though the CQAF is a notably smaller affair than the Belfast Festival at Queen’s which has been known at times as the second largest international European arts Festival (second in size to the Edinburgh Festival). An offshoot of this festival which is organised by the same Cathedral Quarter festival company is a smaller annual cultural festival, which however has a duration of most of the month: The Out to Lunch Arts Festival happens in The Cathedral Quarter in January.

Also central to the area is the Belfast campus of the Ulster University. Nearby North Street is home to many of Belfast’s most notorious bars and venues, particularly renowned during the punk movement of the 1970s. These include The Front Page and Giro’s (closed 2004). Derry rockers The Undertones were regular visitors to the University of Ulster’s student union building, the Conor Hall, as well as The Assembly Rooms (a building which currently houses a Central Belfast gallery of The Emer Gallery, and has been known as The Northern Bank theatre). Local punk producer Terri Hooley ran a record store called Cathedral Records in the North Street Arcade before 2004’s fire.

Read more on Cathedral Quarter, CathedralQuarterBelfast.com and Wikipedia Cathedral Quarter (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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