Bands, Beacons, ​and Bystanders

Bands Beacons and BystandersBands, Beacons, and Bystanders photographic exhibition premieres at the Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts, North Belfast

Embrace Studios artist and photographer, George Robb, from East Belfast, premieres his solo exhibition, Bands, Beacons, and Bystanders, in the Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts in North Belfast, on Friday 6th October, 7pm-9pm, with the exhibition continuing until 23rd  October, supported by National Lottery funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Robb’s photographs explore the ‘Orange’ band and ‘Unionist’ culture of the 11th night bonfires and 12th of July parades. It is an observation of individuals in celebratory events simultaneously exploring changes in local cultural and political shifts.   Robb is particularly interested in the interdependence and relationships established in the parade with the bands and the audience.

The images play on the energy created by the community through the experience of fun, joy, and camaraderie; however, he acknowledges, with strong military associations and often considered anti-nationalist it has conflicting connotations.

In this exhibition, Robb poses an alternative narrative in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Highlighting this perspective, he is giving a voice to the community through observation and presentation rather than judgment.

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

This work stems from Robb’s life experiences of living in in East Belfast since the age of six. A large part of his upbringing was associated with going to see ‘the bands’, the Loyal Orange Order demonstrations, 11th-night bonfires and the 1st July Somme Commemoration Parade on the Beersbridge Road.

Rev. Bill Shaw – Director 174 Trust, said. “

“Establishing a multi-purpose Arts Centre of world class in north Belfast has placed the arts and culture right at the heart of local community life and has provided a safe place for people and communities to come together to share positive experience associated with the arts. We are delighted to host this important photographic exhibition.”

The orange culture is seen to be unionist, loyalist and Anti-Catholic. With the flag protests that took place in 2012 and civil unrest that followed, it has become even more politicised. However, for George, and many like him, growing up with this culture was fun, celebratory and something to look forward to. George is in a mixed marriage, with half his family Catholic, but this does not stop him recalling the happy memories in an innocent, not ‘anti-anything’ way.

Bands, Beacons, and Bystanders exhibition continues until 23rd  October.

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