The countdown to 2012 has begun. No, not the London Olympics; 2012 is also the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, the iconic ocean liner that was built by Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyards. And it is that year that Belfast has chosen to showcase the city’s heritage to the world.
It may seem strange for a city to identify with a ship that is famous for sinking on its maiden voyage, but Belfast built what was the most advanced piece of technology in the world at that time and takes pride in the innovation, skill and engineering genius that went into making the Titanic. And as the locals constantly remind you, ‘She was fine when she left here’.
Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one the four ‘B’s for travellers to avoid, Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation from bombs-and-bullets pariah to hip-hotels-and-hedonism party town. The city’s skyline is in a constant state of flux as redevelopment continues apace. The old shipyards are giving way to the luxury waterfront apartments of the Titanic Quarter, and Victoria Sq, Europe’s biggest urban regeneration project, has added a massive city-centre shopping mall to a list of tourist attractions that includes Victorian architecture, a glittering waterfront lined with modern art, foot-stomping music in packed-out pubs and the UK’s second-biggest arts festival.
So as 2012 approaches it seems somehow fitting that Belfast should celebrate the Titanic’s creation, building new pride and optimism out of the wreckage of past disaster. Get here early and enjoy it before the rest of the world arrives.