Belfast, Biros and balaclavas: Things are constantly happening here

Though the urban tension fuels my writing, it’s hard to be a writer here

A  poster by Belfast street artist TLO depicts King William of Orange riding his white horse on a toxic bonfire of tyres alongside a Nymphomation fly poster by street artist Leo Boyd. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

A poster by Belfast street artist TLO depicts King William of Orange riding his white horse on a toxic bonfire of tyres alongside a Nymphomation fly poster by street artist Leo Boyd. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It was FL Green, author of Odd Man Out, who wrote of Belfast: “Things seem to be constantly happening here and the city has an atmosphere that a creative writer needs”. Seventy years on, those words are still relevant and Belfast is a recurrent character in my stories – a bold, boozy, blustering and conflicted presence.

Growing up in the east Belfast suburb of Ballyhackamore, I was largely cocooned from the Troubles. The only anxiety I really experienced was a bomb scare when I was about seven. Ten years ago, I returned east to the inner-city area beside the Ravenhill Road. In spite of our supposed era of peace, I experienced the second bomb scare of my life here, though, in these tough streets, bomb scare is a misnomer; it was more of a bomb ignore, as most of us blithely chose not to answer our doors when the police tried to evacuate us.

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