First up of course it’s the Maritime Heritage Weekend – Saturday/Sunday/Monday at the Odyssey and Titanic Quarter are going to be packed with lovely old tall ships and other historic boats, along with stalls, markets, kids’ entertainment and festivally stuff.
Just checking back through my old videos and found some footage of the last Maritime Heritage Festival 2 years ago – which gives you an idea of what to expect (if this weekend is just as sunny!)
Except that… if you checked out the video you maybe noticed some rather mournful-looking deserted retail units behind the dancing pirates and brass bands – retail units which are now thriving with life thanks to the Dock and the Mace. This weekend The Dock will have extended opening hours – 11-7 Saturday, 2-7 Sunday and 11-7 Monday – to enjoy being right at the heart of all the festival events. There will be Belgian waffles and craft stalls in the pop-up market. The deckchairs will be out (because it will be sunny, yes it will). The guys at the Mace are bringing in an extra ice-cream kiosk. In a thousand little different ways the TQ community is transformed since that last maritime festival – there’s now coffee bars, local shops, cash points, market stalls, prayer gardens, local history, art, colour, conversation, light, life…
In the video you might’ve also noticed a big white tent – under which was lurking the partly-restored SS Nomadic. Today the railings came down and the final few tarps came off – she is only a few days away from the Grand Opening on 31st May (102 years to the day since she left Belfast for the first time), with the gates being thrown open to the public on 1st June.
(If you’re on the Dock email list you’ll already have received an invite to a special preview visit – if you’re not on the list, send me your email address now! But in case you’re wondering – every first-come-first-served ticket for the visit was snapped up within an hour or two – I’ve never had such a lightning response to a Dock email!)
I’ve had a little dig around in my photo and video library for records of all my visits to Nomadic over the years of her restoration. From being there on the day the doors were closed to the public back in 2010 – through a hard-hat tour when she was being bare-metalled – to the day when we watched the funnel being lowered down onto the vessel – to last week when some of the Dock team were given an exclusive sneak peek of the lovingly-restored interior – it’s been quite a journey!
On that day when the doors were closed, I made a little Dock video called Nomadic Days (still worth a watch!). And now in 2013 it’s great to be able to say – Nomadic Days Are Here Again!
The removal of the railings around Nomadic has also unveiled a lovely little feature right outside Dock Cafe’s window – 3 metal figures (I think it’s Charlie Chaplin, a French passenger and a stoker) who all are connected to Nomadic’s story. I couldn’t resist the photo op – the Chaplain meets Chaplin…?