As a way of welcoming the newest addition PPI-NI’s team, International Fellow Megan Lynch was taken by fellow Fellow Rory O’Neil and Project Coordinator Joanne Fitzpatrick on a quick tour of North and West Belfast. Megan was shown all the schools and community centres that PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland works in these areas. Joanne takes us on their tour of North and West Belfast.
The first part of the tour was through the Ardoyne area in North Belfast, known more recently for its rioting during the 12th July marches, but known more fondly in PPI-NI as the place where a PeacePlayers t-shirt can be spotted after turning every corner. The tour continued down the Ardoyne Road, past the Peace Wall on Alliance Avenue, into the Glenbryn area where primary school twinning partners Holy Cross Girls and Wheatfield were pointed out. We drove down and stopped in to visit the Jolly Rancher Centre, a local community centre for the Glenbryn area, where a plethora of Wheatfield children ran on the streets in front.
We continued back through Ardoyne, waving to participants of our Advanced Leadership Programme and Primary School Twinning Programme as they shouted back, “See you at Seaview!”. We traveled out onto the Crumlin road and turned right onto Tennant St., where waves of red, white, and blue began to appear- and where we could tell we were hitting the Shankill Road. There were hundreds upon thousands of flags blowing in the wind as we made our way down towards the Shankill Estate. As we turned into the estate, we were joined by several other travelers in the Loyalist tourist hot spot. When you turn 360 degrees, it’s very apparent as to why this is so popular with tour guides. Trying to take in all the murals takes about 15-20 mins, as nearly every end house has a mural depicting something important to the community. One mural in particular never ceases to amaze me- watch the video below to see that the picture follows you as you walk around it.
After we took in the very informative murals in the Shankill Estate, we hopped back in the car, made our way back up the Shankill Road, and turned down Lanark Way towards Springfield Road, travelling through our first peace wall of the day. We drove past St. Clare’s primary school (a PeacePlayers twinning school), and then over to Bombay St. to visit a memorial for those who have lost their lives in the greater Clonard area of West Belfast. Again, we were joined by many black taxis full of tourists. Here, in August 1969, violent sectarian riots led to exchanges of gunfire and the burning of houses and businesses. Many believe that the events that transpired on Bombay St. in the summer of 1969 gave rise to “The Troubles”.
We made our way to Northumberland St., where we took in colourful murals that led us onto the Falls Road. We traveled up the Falls Road to see posters everywhere for the Feile and Phobail (Festival of the People), which is fully underway in the Falls area of West Belfast. We took a right and traveled up towards the Whiterock Community Centre to pay a visit to Sean “Topper” Thompson. There, we were greeted by the cheers of several of our participants from our Cross Community League, along with Junior Coach Michaela Thompson, who has been a PeacePlayers participant for nearly seven years and will shortly be moving into the role of Senior Coach.
As we left the community centre, we stood at the foot of Blacks Mountain and took in the amazing view of Belfast City. I thought to myself…I love this city!