That’s Us NI: A wee Love tour
by Paul SHEVLIN for Shared Future News
23 March 2019
Recently Belfast has become a tourist hotspot of Europe. People from across the world drink at our bars and traipse through our streets. Guides with bright yellow umbrellas lead tourists around the city centre, telling them our city’s stories and black taxis do the same, just with different stories. And in The Grand Opera House it’s with two guides from Wee Heart Tours that Crosslinks tells us the story it has to tell.
Billy and Sinead Love are a mixed couple. Billy dreams of the glory days of Rangers Football Club when they took every league and cup while Sinead fantasises about Gerry Adams. They never forget where the other one is from, never stop bantering about it and love each other because of it. They represent Crosslink’s cross-community spirit. Taking young people from all communities, Catholic, Protestant and ethnic minorities, and giving them opportunities in art, music and theatre.
The Loves take us on a tour of Belfast through the past few decades. They show us its music, subcultures and the small beauties in people’s lives. They love the city, and they are proud to show it off to the English, Scots, French and everyone else in the crowd. Starting off with “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones they show us how the city changed, from the start of the Troubles to the coming of Ikea. They reveal the ways that young people enjoyed themselves, starting off with skipping ropes and before long we’re in boiler suits at a rave. They realise that there’s more to us than our violent past, but they certainly don’t shy away from talking having a conversation about it.
In one striking scene an effigy of a hunger striker is on stage. Members of Crosslinks file past and hang signs on him. These signs say “terrorist”, “freedom fighter”, “son”, “father” and the last one challenges us and asks what we think. In another scene, a simple musical segment, we are asked to “tear down the walls that separate us”. To think of a world without the peace walls, without segregated education, a world where we live side by side. Where our differences exist but they enrich both everyone inside of embittering them. They know how far we’ve come but they know that we can go farther.
When we enter the 2000s the Love’s two kids take over the tour and say something profound. That they’ve heard enough from their parents and they want to hear it from their generation. Everyone in Crosslinks was born after the Good Friday Agreement. They’re all peace babies but they’ve grown up hearing horror stories from the Troubles. But now they’re tired of listening and they want their own voices to be heard. Watching this felt like we were watching a new generation have a conversation about where we’ve been and where we can go. They are talented and eloquent and they were a joy to watch.