Belfast is abuzz in preparation for the upcoming three-week-long Titanic Festival, which will both commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Belfast-built ocean liner and celebrate the eagerly-awaited opening of Titanic Belfast, the centerpiece of city’s revitalized waterfront.
The festival, which runs March 31 through April 22, will feature 120 events, including light shows, a commemorative service on the day of the sinking along with the unveiling of a memorial garden, and Titanic Sounds, a concert organized by MTV. The concert marks a victory for Belfast, coming only six months after MTV hosted its wildly popular European Music Awards in the once-troubled city. As Belfast’s Mayor Niall O Donnghaile told the Belfast Telegraph, “This is such an exciting time for our city and this festival reflects the incredible interest in Titanic.”
Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh in Co. Tyrone is hosting an exhibition, Titanic: Window on Emigration, which explores the lives of the Irish immigrants on board the Titanic – their experiences on the ship and the lives they led after making it to New York. It includes 300 artifacts, including personal items that belonged to the Irish passengers, and a detailed recreation of a third-class cabin.
In the Republic, the small parish of Addergoole in Lahardane, Co. Mayo has become the focus of Titanic commemoration. Out of all the towns in Ireland, it had the most citizens on board the Titanic – fourteen in total, only three of whom survived. The town erected a memorial to the Addergoole Fourteen, as they are called, in 2002 and has held an annual bell ringing ceremony since then, tolling the Timoney Bell on the grounds of the town’s St. Patrick’s Church fourteen times at 2:20 a.m. every April 15th, the time of the Titanic’s sinking. The bell remains silent for the rest of the year.
This year, the centenary will be marked by Mayo Titanic Cultural Week, from April 8–15. Former Irish president Mary Robinson will speak at the start of the week’s events, a re-enactment of the departure of the Addergoole Fourteen on their journey to Cobh, Co. Cork, the Titanic’s last port of call. The annual Titanic Mass will conclude the week, with a dedication of new stained-glass Titanic Memorial Windows in St. Patrick’s Church. Taoiseach Enda Kenny will then officially open the town’s Titanic Memorial Park, where a time capsule will be buried.