BEYOND is delighted to announce Belfast as our home for the 2021 event and to share Professor Paul Moore, Director, Future Screens Northern Ireland, reflections on this year’s conference theme and why Belfast is the perfect location to explore how imagined spaces as much as real ones shape our place in the world:
The privilege of hosting BEYOND in Belfast this year is juxtaposed with the realisation that the experience of previous BEYOND events creates an imposing precedent to have to follow. Some of the fear this engenders has been assuaged by the knowledge that the theme of this year’s event is to be ‘place’.
The contested nature of space in Northern Ireland has embedded in its population an innate understanding that place is never neutral and is the means whereby we express our identities, develop the frameworks for our everyday lived experiences, and articulate the skills that have emerged from a history of economic endeavour.
Future Screens NI has held fast to the belief that the Creative Industries are the latest industrial manifestation of economic drivers capable of transforming a place at a time of increased social and economic uncertainty: this belief was encapsulated in the mantra that the Creative Industries can become the new heavy industries in this region. What is exciting in all of this, of course, is that the Creative Industries bring that crucial mix of creativity, art, humanities, science, design and engineering which leaves them better equipped than most sectors to drive transformation – economic, social and cultural.
Belfast (and Northern Ireland) offers important points of discussion about the nature of place in the 21st century. Points such as the relationship between urban and rural areas which threshold on each other, the reshaping of cities blighted by deprivation and misguided planning, the role of imagined community in building shared understandings of place and, crucially, the role of the Creative Industries in applying creative practice to bring real progress to places through what Richard Sennet calls the designing of disorder.
Place might be conceived as a set of interlocking, radiating concentric circles articulating, in the case of Northern Ireland, the centrality of the people through to the array of artistic projects, creative SME companies, key creative development agencies such as NI Screen and the Arts Council and skills delivery bodies which encompass a creative industries infrastructure known to many through the popular cultural gaze of the Titanic and Game of Thrones.
BEYOND in Belfast represents, therefore a challenge, an opportunity to use this complex place as a means of finding more widely applicable understandings and, hopefully, to experience, in person or online, the unique welcome Belfast can offer while exploring the importance of place in the contemporary ecology. BEYOND 2021 will, I hope, be an event where those attending can say, with Toba Beta: Someday, (wo)men will visit ideas instead of places.
BEYOND 2021, a hybrid event, will take place at the Titanic Belfast and online on the 20-21 October.