To mark 50 years since the security cordon known as the "Ring of Steel" was built around Belfast city center, Kabosh in collaboration with Professor Kate Catterall from The University of Texas at Austin will present "Drawing the Ring of Steel" on Thursday, March 24, 2022 as part of this year's Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics.
"Drawing the Ring of Steel" will celebrate the resilience of the people of Belfast and share and preserve their stories of daily life while the Ring of Steel was in place — of working, shopping, parenting, growing up, socializing, dating and more — before they pass from living memory.
Professor Kate Catterall, who was born and raised in Belfast and has direct personal experience of the Ring of Steel, said:
“For over 20 years during the conflict, the series of gates, fences, turnstiles, search stations and blocked roads known as the ‘Ring of Steel’ became an increasingly prominent feature of the urban environment in Belfast. Staffed by both civilian searchers and armed security personnel, the cordon had a significant impact on the daily lives of all who passed in and out of the city center every day, to work, shop or socialize there.
Ongoing development since the 1998 Peace Agreement has erased much of the evidence of the Ring of Steel, and only traces remain today to show that it ever existed. This work aims to create a record of what was a singular and largely unrecorded episode in Belfast's recent history.”
Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director of Kabosh said:
“Memories of the Ring of Steel and regular civilian searches are shared between all Belfast communities, cutting across sectarian, class and gender lines. Images of the structures were flashed across the world, becoming part of our global identity and creating a unique city center, which has never been seen before or since in the UK and Ireland.
‘Drawing the Ring of Steel’ aims to highlight how far Belfast's city center has developed from those times into an inclusive shared space. It aims to ensure that the stories of the older generation are heard and preserved and to support younger generations and those with no experience of the Ring of Steel in appreciating both the journey that has been made and how far we still have to travel.”
At each of the four "Drawing the Ring of Steel" sites, performers will redraw the lines of the security checkpoints and barriers and enact choreographed search motions. Other performers in 1970s dress will interact with the public asking them questions about their memory or knowledge of the ‘ring of steel’ and collecting their stories.
Stories which are recorded from audience members on the day of the piece will be transcribed, reviewed, anonymized and featured on the project website.
Audience members can also choose to walk the Ring of Steel locations with a cultural anthropologist/geographer at a later date and tell their stories on site.
The collation and preservation of these day-to-day Ring of Steel stories will ensure that the experience of Belfast’s aging generations is acknowledged, respected and forms part of the official narrative of the city. It will also be a beneficial source of knowledge and insight for students and tourists about the nature of daily life during the conflict.