Public sites around the city centre

Backin' Belfast

How to re-activate and re-claim the city centre

Ends 30 March 2013

On Monday 03 December 2012, Belfast City Council voted to restrict the flying of the union flag outside the City Hall. Nationalists at Belfast City Council wanted the union flag to be taken down altogether, but in the end agreed on a compromise from the Alliance Party that it would fly only on 18 designated days.
Minutes after the motion was passed, loyalist protest erupted outside the building which quickly became violent and spread to loyalist areas in East Belfast and the city centre. It was called the flag protest.


A wave of protests and violence in the following days and weeks before and shortly after Christmas led to a significant decline in city centre business, visitors and tourism.
Although the protest gradually declined in number, a demonstration is still held every Saturday in front of the City Hall.



The Backin' Belfast campaign by Belfast City Council started end of January with the promotion of inner city shops, bars and hotels through an advertising campaign and special offers. Part of this campaign was the revitalization of the city centre through arts activities, of which PS² is a small contributor.
Although PS² can be criticized of being complicit with a campaign which tries to promote business as usual and a smooth shopping experience, we decided to back up Belfast or, more precise, to gradually reclaim the city and public spaces for the citizens.

Programme example for Writers Square


'Culture, arts and leisure' refers to the wide remit of the Northern Irish Department which also includes sports. With our broad understanding of culture, we use ping-pong and film screenings, craft workshops, skipping and more as means to offer playful and non-commercial use of public space. Supported by artists who work as commentators and activators, this space is regenerated and re designated for the citizens and spatially filled with choreographed movements, screams, fun and the absence of commercial purpose.

For PS², the Backin' Belfast campaign is an experiment how to deliver a service to the City Council, to be attractive for passers-by and to be artistically sound. With every weekend of activities at various squares, this is an interesting learning process and a test for artists and concepts of urban interactivity alike. Winter sports, poetry and Russian cinema: Writers Square and PS², 23 March. The theme of civic re-appropriation of the city and a non-commercial, leisurely and playful use of public spaces is central to PS²'s contribution to the Backin' Belfast campaign. ‘Some Things About Belfast’ is a body of work by Aisling O’Beirn, derived from her collection of unofficial urban information and urban myths. She has been gathering place nicknames and contemporary urban anecdotes from around Belfast for many years. The nicknames collected are all unofficial names that people use commonly for streets, places or local landmarks, but which do not appear on city maps or official, formal state or city documents. The interest in unofficial information stems from a concern by the artist regarding the politics of how place is described at a local level.

‘Some Things About Belfast’ is an on-going project and everyone is invited to contribute to this map. For PS², Aisling O'Beirn formatted her collection of nicknames according to their location on the street grid. The river Lagan and Belfast Lough are dotted which gives the collection the appearance of a star map. The image below is a section of an entire map of Belfast.

'Backin' Belfast' is funded by Belfast City Council