Class, Heritage, Space and their Configuration in the Belfast Titanic Experience and Stewart Parker’s Iceberg

Paul Devlin

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This paper develops a range of theoretical perspectives drawn from heritage studies, performance studies, contemporary theories of class identity, and critical thinking on space and place to make three interrelated arguments: 1. Northern Ireland is currently undergoing a period of intense spatial rearrangement; the beginning of which is roughly coterminous with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (1998). 2. Recent investments of private-public monies into Northern Ireland’s heritage and tourism infrastructure provides evidence, in Laura Jane Smith terms, of an emergent contemporary ‘Authoritative Heritage Discourse’ which can be read as underpinning the materialization of ‘Brand NI’ as a marketing strategy and the extensive media campaigns that have sought to (re)launch Northern Ireland as a premiere tourist destination for international visitors since 2012. 3. In the midst of these developments, in a country with a significant working class population, working class heritage is in danger of being erased. For that reason, the arguments conclude here with a call for the establishment of a Centre for the Study of Working Class Lives in Northern Ireland. Stewart Parker’s radio play Iceberg and a critical evaluation of the recently opened Titanic Experience provide a means to unpack the key issues in play here. Both Parker’s play and Belfast’s first mega-museum are concerned with issues that relate to working class lives in Northern Ireland: the building of the Titanic in East Belfast. However, as the argument here suggests, while Parker’s play seeks to embed the building of the doomed liner in the everyday experiences of the men charged with building it, the Titanic Experience’s desire to lay emphasis on Belfast’s once great industrial capacity leads it to a staging strategy that ultimately provides visitors with a dehumanized account of scale and spectacle at the expense of the very real human dimensions to this story.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Theatre of Stewart Parker
    EditorsMark Phelan
    Place of PublicationDublin
    PublisherCarysfort Press
    ISBN (Print)978-1-909325-47-0
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2014


    • Heritage
    • Stewart parker
    • Class
    • space
    • place


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