Best-selling author and historian Raymond O’Regan is hosting a ‘Hidden Folktown’ tour on Thursday as part of the Heritage Celebrations project, which is shining a light on the folk who lived and worked in one of Belfast city centre’s oldest areas.
O’Regan, a lecturer in Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast is the author of ‘Hidden Belfast: Benevolence, Blackguards and Balloon Heads’ and has also written a short history of the ‘Back of the River’ area of the city (now Bank Square, Castle Street and Berry Street).
From 1pm he will take people on a tour of the rich heritage of the area, bringing to life the brewers, fishmongers, haberdashers and musicians who populated it from the early 19th century. This includes the ‘Fadgies’ – Irish speaking people from the Omeath area who came to Belfast to sell fish and fruit to the local townsfolk.
The project, which is financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, includes a series of workshops and demonstrations teaching traditional skills displayed by the artisans and tradespeople in the Folktown/Bank Square area two centuries ago.
Thursday sees a range of food skills demonstrations (including traditional baking and butter-making) a weaving workshop and a harvest knots workshop from 12 to 4pm at Folktown Market in Bank Square,
The Folktown Heritage Celebrations will also include a series of heritage talks and tours, story-telling festival and an oral history project recording memories from the area, which will be published in a booklet next year.
Folktown Director Sophie Rasmussen said the project was proving to be of great interest to the general public but would also be a valuable resource for schools, youth clubs and community groups.
She added: “The aim of the project is to inform, entertain and educate the public about the rich heritage and history of one of Belfast’s oldest districts. I’m so delighted that we have support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Having launched the market earlier this year and held a folk music festival, we are keen to illustrate other aspects of life in this vibrant part of the city, and indeed to uncover and preserve our heritage for the future.”
The workshops explore traditional food production skills plus historic trades such as blacksmithing, rope making and print making.
There will be a series of heritage tours and storytelling festival events exploring life on the Farset when Bank Square was known as ‘Back of the River’. They examine through story-telling how the lough and the city’s rivers, the Lagan and Farset have influenced the lives of the population.
Last week saw the unveiling of a symbolic new piece of public art which flows from Berry Street East into Bank Square giving visitors a pictorial view of the city’s rich and colourful past.
The magnificent 3D sculptural work created by artists Annemarie Mullan and Stephen Mackey in association with King Street Arts, is aimed at attracting people into beautiful Bank Square with its pubs, restaurants and galleries and open air Folktown Market, the focal point of a growing new cultural quarter.
The artwork with the Farset River at its heart is the final piece in the £3million refurbishment of Bank Square by the Department of Social Development that included the installation of natural stone paving, improved lighting and street furniture, along with the launch of the Thursday Folktown Market.
It is composed of a series of vivid street scenes which give a fascinating pictorial history of the area with its strong, hardworking women and men, and children playing traditional street games.
Folktown Market, the first independent weekly outdoor market to be granted a licence in 400 years opened in April featuring stalls selling delicious hot dishes, artisan crafts, and locally sourced food including freshly baked bread and handmade cheeses.
Its purpose is to help bring increased footfall and activity to the Bank Square area and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of this historic part of the city centre.
Folktown Director Joby Fox, one of the city’s best known singer/songwriters, said the aim was to make people aware of this new, energetic cultural quarter with its small independent shops, bars and restaurants and art galleries. Another key objective was to nurture the folk music tradition of the area.
“Folktown Market is authentic, friendly and welcoming. It’s an open air market surrounded by beautiful buildings. One a sunny day, it’s the closest thing we have in Belfast to an Italian piazza.”
For more information about the Folktown Market and details of the Heritage Celebrations go to www.folktownbelfast.com