West Belfast isn’t the shithole everyone says it is, it’s a great place to grow up
No honestly it’s sweet
There’s a really cringe internet joke about asking Irish people where they’re from.
It goes something like, “I’m from Ireland, but more importantly, I’m from Belfast”. It’s the kind of thing they print on green baseball caps for the tourist board, but it’s this kind of specificity which makes Belfast what it is. And ask anyone from my hometown where they’re from, and they’ll put an extra affix on it – nobody is just from the city, but they’re from their own area within the city, which is probably incredibly specific, with its own tribes, codes and customs. A place where they do things just a little bit differently. West Belfast is one of those places.
Everyone who lives in West Belfast knows it’s a bit shit (and if not, they say they live in Lisburn anyway). But we are a proud, colourful, enterprising, unique people. Incomprehensibly, we are pretty defensive of where we come from.
Nike Air Max, Juicy Couture velour tracksuits, custom diamante Converse, claddagh hoops, Elizabeth Arden foundation, Berghaus, Henri Lloyd, Helly Hansen.
Fashions change, things move on, but in the 90s and noughties in West Belfast, if you didn’t have these in your wardrobe, you were nothing. You don’t get style like this in BT9.
Our suspiciously glossy tourist board website, at its most delirious, claims: “With breathtaking views of Black Mountain, you’ll not forget you are sitting in the heart of west Belfast, but with the feeling you are sitting in New York.” Trust me, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how many mountains there are in West Belfast, absolutely nothing about the Falls Road screams 5th Avenue. The only skyscraper is Divis Tower, which is surrounded by some optimistic allotments and where I was once mugged.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only scenery around the place is the kind that goes on in this video (featuring some greenery).
Actually though, it’s not as bad as all that. New York it’s not, but the bog meadows are pretty much our own natural wonder of the world, and although you feel deep in the inner-city there, it’s only a 15 minute drive to places as beautiful as this. It’s something you don’t get living in London, or any other city: it really is the best of both worlds.
I mean, show me someone from anywhere other than West Belfast who could come up with stuff like this:
The bars, restaurants and local amenities
If you’ve never been to Goodfella’s in Andytown, you haven’t lived. I maintain there’s no pizza better anywhere in the entire world, not even in Italy, probably, and you can bring your own booze, and your meal will be interrupted at least five times as the lights drop and everyone sings happy 40th to Jolene, happy christening, happy communion, happy anniversary.
There also used to be Dreamworld amusements on Boucher Road, where basically everyone went for their birthday, but then there was a rumour that it shut down because of rats, and now sadly it’s no more.
If you don’t manage to catch the last 10 bus home (they stop at 11pm so it’s understandable), there are other ways to get around:
And if you don’t have your own car, you can probably order a taxi that’ll sell you alcohol from the boot, which is even better and just one example of our unmatched enterprise.
UTH, FTW, DHLA, milles, smicks (nobody says spides), begs (of glue), fegs, scundered. You might think that it’s a shithole, but you wouldn’t be able to tell us that if you don’t get the lingo. And we can talk about how little we think of you without you really noticing.
The thing is, it’s easy to make fun of people from West Belfast. It’s easy to say it’s scummy, or it’s a shithole, and yeah we all collectively cringed over that American tourist who came to profile us, but it doesn’t change the fact that the people are amazing. I wouldn’t be the person I am without growing up there, and there’s a reason why everyone who leaves goes back to visit so much. Because you don’t get people like the people in West Belfast anywhere else in the world – not even close.