Full marks to Kit Harrington, the actor who plays Jon Snow on “Game Of Thrones”, the fantasy HBO series, much of which is made in and around Belfast.
Most of the cast …when prompted…have spoken about the people and scenery in “Northern Ireland” (sic) and how great it is to be working It is all music to the ears of the people who run the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. For Its a hard sell. Almost thirty years of bombs, sectarian killings followed by nearly twenty years of Peace exposing the hatred that underpinned it all.
Like it or not…after you have seen the Giants Causeway (which DUP members in Government is only 6,000 years old anyway), there is not that much else to see. The Real thing about tourists here is that they want to see the place that had a small scale civil war. They want to see the murals in East and West Belfast…the stone memorials to IRA and loyalist paramilitaries…the Republican Plot in Milltown…..the Peace Walls that divide Catholic and Protestant communities in several parts of the city.
Thats what those open-top buses are about… Terror Tourism.
Frustratingly for the “Northern Ireland Tourist Board”, the peak of the Tourist Season is in in June and July when sectarianism is most visible thru Orange supremacy and their parades. The Tourist Board would like the Twelfth to be “inclusive” …like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Notting Hill in London. LetsGetAlongerism? Yes….am I right in saying that Mick Fealty of Slugger O’Toole said that the “Twelfth is a day for us all”?
The Tourist Industry has been selected as an industry which can bring billions into the Norths economy. The Republic of Ireland is streets ahead in bringing in the Dollars and the Euros.
The Tourist Board will try anything. The bottom of no barrel will go unscraped.
Titanic…nobody in Belfast gave a damn before the Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett starred in the movie. Now we have a Titanic Visitor Centre. We have had a G8 Summit. We have had the World Police and Fire Games. We have had a Talls Ship Race. We have had the start of the Tour of Italy Cycle Race. We have had MTV Awards.
We even have a posh “Cathedral Quarter”, where yuppies mingle with “creatives” to pose in a strange and expensive “Café Culture”. A rival to Paris or the Buckfast drinkers in the City’s car parks.
We do incredibly have a Movie Industry. No….seriously we do. In fact, I myself have passed an audition for a movie a few years ago called “City of Ember”.
So…Game of Thrones. Hard to avoid the postcards and the merchandising in Belfast. I think it is called “product placement”….how NIKE, or Coca Cola or Budweiser get subtle advertising in movies. The Tourist Board seems to be placing Norn Iron into Game of Thrones.
Naturally in interviews,, the cast are prompted to say something nice about Norn Iron. And whether it is a contractural obligation or just politeness, they tell us they love Norn Iron….the place and the people.
Except Kit Harrington who plays Jon Snow.He hasnt read the Tourist Board script. In an American chat show in which he is promoting the show, the host notes the exotic locations like Croatia and Spain and Harrington gets “Belfast”. Harrington notes that Belfast is “ok for three or four days” and that he has been in Belfast for five years. He adds Belfast is proud of three things …the most bombed hotel in Europe, building the Titanic which sank and Game ofThrones. Well….at least the Tourist Board will be delighted that Harrington didnt mention that Belfast also built De Lorean Cars.
Everywhere Kit Harrington goes, the Game of Thrones fans remind him of one of the Show’s most famous lines….”You know NOTHING Jon Snow”.
Seemingly Kit Harrington knows more. That our Tourist Industry enriches a few …but does not enrich the people with “Zero Hour” contracts and minimum wage.
The character Jon Snow is often referred to as “Ned Stark’ bastard”. I do not know how the Tourist Board refers to Kit Harrington.
On one point I think NI tourism misses out badly, Gaelic games, maybe I’m biased but I had Mexican visitors this Easter, they went to see a bunch of stones, a fairly sturdy rope bridge and a whiskey distillery (they can’t abide Whiskey) and hours on b roads. I went to see an u14 hurling match where my 2 sons were playing. I can’t believe anything they saw matched it. In the days when I went to a half empty Casement, I did wonder why it wasn’t pushed as a tourist attraction. Kit was trying to be funny and slagged off Game of thrones in the same breath. A very Irish trait. Maybe in 5yrs we have rubbed off on him.
A few years back I went to San Francisco. I got of the plane and went for a walk, everyone else went for a kip. In the evening they talked about what to see. I’d already seen most of it, tram cars, golden gate bridge, pier 19, coit tower, china town. A culture is far deeper than buildings.