Heritage Celebrations to reveal the folk of Folktown

By October 15, 2015Creative Industries, Newsroom

Folktown Market today launched its major Heritage Celebrations project, which will shine a light on the folk who lived and worked in one of Belfast city centre’s oldest areas.


The project, which is financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, kicked off today with the first of a series of workshops and demonstrations teaching traditional skills displayed by the artisans and tradespeople in the Folktown/Bank Square area two centuries ago.


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 would 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.


Today sees Patrick Strahan from Nine Irons Craft in Co Mayo run a blacksmithing workshop, while his partner Julie Ann is holding a Macramé workshop for those interested in making braided jewellery. Macramé, which is a form of textile-making using knots rather than weaving, was hugely popular in Victorian times.


Patrick, who calls himself the ‘nomadic blacksmith’, travels around the country giving demonstrations. “There is a great affinity in Ireland with blacksmithing. My remit is to keep engaging with the public to keep the craft alive,” he said.

The food-related workshops, which take place on October 29, will explore old recipes and look at 19th century housekeeping and what lessons we might learn today.


In October and November 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.


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




Notes to editors:


The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported the Folktown Heritage Celebrations which run from Oct 2015 to May 2016 uncovering the heritage in Folktown. www.hlf.org.uk


Programme for Folktown Heritage Celebrations:

15th Oct – Blacksmithing demonstration and Macrame workshop

22nd Oct – ‘Hidden Folktown’ tour with Raymond O’Regan

22nd Oct – Rope making workshop, traditional childrens’ street games, and screen print demonstration

29 Oct – ‘Hidden Folktown’ tour with Raymond O’Regan

29 Oct – Food skills demonstration (including traditional baking and butter making), weaving workshop and harvest knots workshop


The Folktown Market takes place in the shadow of two of the oldest churches in Belfast, Berry Street Presbyterian Church and St Mary’s Chapel.


The name Folktown came from discussions with local people reflecting on the area which is rich in music, pubs, cuisine, arts groups, faith groups and small traders.


The Department of Social Development spent £3 million renovating Bank Square – an area dating back to the 1600s which is comprised of Bank Street, Berry Street and Chapel Lane.  Improvements included the installation of natural stone paving, landscaping, improved lighting, free WI-FI, street furniture and art work.


The journey to bring this market to Bank Square involved lengthy negotiations to obtain a licence as under the original charter granted by King James I, the historic rights to operate markets in the city, including those held on private property or indoors, belong to the city council.