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New digital archive reflects on NI’s centenary year

A new digital trail to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary year has been launched at Belfast’s City Hall.

Funded by the Shared History Fund, which The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delivering on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office, the historical archive brings key historic moments to life through stories and artefacts from Belfast in 1921.

Developed in partnership with the Nerve Centre, the digital archive is part of Belfast City Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme which commemorates a decade of key historical moments and events between 1912 and 1922 that shaped Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Tom Haire said: “2021 is an important year in our Decade of Centenaries Programme, as we mark those key anniversaries from 100 years ago.

“While the pandemic has had an impact on how we have been able to deliver our events, this new digital archive will provide a lasting, and fascinating, glimpse into the past for years to come.

“Some of the stories may be familiar, but I hope people will find out more about this aspect of our history through the more personal stories and interesting artefacts included on the site.”

Among the artefacts included within the online archive is a journal extract by Lady Cecil Craig, wife of Sir James Craig.

In it, Lady Craig outlines how her husband wrote to Queen Mary, inquiring if she would be accompanying the King on his visit to open Northern Ireland’s first parliament in Belfast City Hall on June 22, 1921.

She goes on to outline the “…great delight and excitement all over…” upon receiving a wire from the Palace stating: “The Queen will have much pleasure in accompanying the King to Belfast in accordance with the kind invitation contained in your message”.

Angelina Fusco, committee member of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to support ‘2021 Marking the Decade of Centenaries in Belfast’ through the Shared History Fund.

“This project is one of 39 projects funded through the programme and will help a wide range of people to explore the key events and moments in Northern Ireland’s history.”

The digital trail, which can be found at www.creativecentenaries.org, was launched after a performance of a specially commissioned play ‘King George’s Speech’ at City Hall.

The play, written by Terra Nova production in collaboration with young people from throughout the city, was first performed on June 22, 2021, exactly 100 years to the day that the King visited City Hall to open Northern Ireland’s first parliament.

n You can view a recording of the play at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/decadeofcentenaries

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