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Welcome to Belfast: park your corporate cock here

November 12, 2011

The most important thing going on in Belfast last weekend wasn’t the MTV European Music Awards, it was the occupation of Writer’s Square by protestors angry about inequality and corporate greed. Although small in number and lacking the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, Occupy Belfast aspire to something more substantial than phony, teenage hysteria and corporate excess.

As reward for hosting the MTV awards, Belfast hopes it will reap an economic dividend to the tune of £10 million for. If true, that would be a pretty good return on the 1 million-odd quid spent on the event by Belfast City Council and The Northern Ireland Tourist Board but in what shape will this dividend come?

Tourism? In what way did the awards advertise Belfast or Northern Ireland as a tourist destination? The event could have been located anywhere. All Belfast did was provide the required blank canvas upon which MTV stamped its corporate brand. So I don’t think tourism is the key. It’s something else.

Perhaps the council and tourist board are banking on a little of that stardust that seems to accompany the world of corporate entertainment to rub off on Belfast. After all image and reputation count for a lot these days; and ‘feel-good-factors’, ‘mood-music’ and ‘confidence’ are as good as hard cash in a world ruled my fickle markets that have taken on the personality of a petulant child.

But it’s not just MTV that has taken advantage of Northern Ireland’s malleability. You might have stumbled upon the filming of HBO’s The Game of Thrones if you’ve been traveling around the north coast lately. Northern Ireland has provided the site for a number of contemporary film and TV productions, with Belfast on-screen standing-in for London, Paris as well as the fantasy world of Winterfell. Surely all this is a good thing?

Yet – curmudgeonly aul’ fucker that I am – I can’t help but ask what all this mean in real terms and how long will the good times last?

For despite all the optimism and razzamatazz, isn’t there a real danger that Northern Ireland’s natives will find themselves confined to waiting on and clearing up the tables of the cosmopolitan rich and famous. In short, what will be the quality and prospects of the employment in this new economy?

Certainly Northern Ireland has a fledging, indigenous media sector but is it too dependent on the patronage of large corporate actors? These are the giants who can relocate at the drop of hat and bestow their stardust and magic on some other anonymous region or country. MTV, HBO and the other giants have no roots here and when they go will they leave any infrastructure, any lasting economic legacy?

And if/when the big boys pull-out, will the local talent go with them, relocating closer to the real work, the wealth and the places were ambition can be realised?

As Fionola Meredith, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, says,‘you can’t help feeling MTV saw us [Belfast] coming: eager to showcase our city as a normal, confident, successful place, we were only too happy to hand over oodles of cash to the global entertainment company so that it might deign to bestow its magic on Belfast.’

At the moment Northern Ireland is doing little more than fagging for the creative and entertainment industry and that role isn’t one we should bank on long-term.

Short of global revolution I don’t know what will save Northern Ireland from a future of bending over so that the corporate cock can be parked between its arse-cheeks. And I suppose that’s why I thought that the most important thing going on in Belfast last weekend wasn’t the MTV awards, it was the camp in Writers’ Square set up by Occupy Belfast.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Occupy Belfast permalink
    December 18, 2011 8:57 pm

    I’m one of the Belfast Occupiers. I think it is really great that you thought the most important thing going on that weekend was the occupation of Writer’s Square rather than the MTV European Music Awards. We, in fact, made the same point and did a banner drop at it. The banner read, “Enough money for MTV but not enough for Belfast City A&E”.

    We also share your concerns about how our future is being shaped and our willingness to accept anything in the name of this “new Northern Ireland.” We as a society, we feel, really aren’t asking ourselves some serious questions and blindly going in a direction that will leave the people worse off in the short-term and the long-term.

    However, politically-speaking, I’m worried about some of the language you have used in your article, such as “a future of bending over so that the corporate cock can be parked between its arse-cheeks.” While I wouldn’t presume this to be your intention but language such as that smacks of heterosexist imagery and in being a part of a movement that seeks to eradicate inequality through discussion and action, I think it is paramount we also reflect on the language we use and change accordingly.

    I hope you take that as constructive criticism rather than mere criticism and, once again, we appreciate your support evident in this pressing article.

    Solidarity

    • Rab permalink*
      December 19, 2011 9:51 am

      Welcome Occupy Belfast,
      It’s great to hear from you and many thanks for your comment. The criticism is noted and taken in the spirit intended.

      Actually my intention was to employ deliberately homophobic language to make a point about the warped values of our local political class. I remember the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign when many of our public representatives were very vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality. Now at an hour when Ulster is being ‘fucked’ – metaphorically speaking – by the free-market and corporations, many of those same representatives are helping to facilitating this… which I suppose makes them capitalist pimps, when you think of it.

      My purpose is to offend, but to offend people who think they have a God given right to pontificate about and stand in judgement over the sexual congress of consenting adults, but on the other hand acquiesce to the careless, brutality of global capitalism. Probably trying to be too clever by half. Anyway, Shakespeare’s Caliban puts it far better:

      You taught me language; and my profit on’t
      Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
      For learning me your language!

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