A tragedy remembered

Titanic Titanic undergoing trials in Belfast lough before her maiden voyage

Belfast is living up to its nickname 'Titanic town' this month, with a range of events for the centenary of the sinking of the White Star liner.

The BBC is marking the occasion with programming across radio and tv, a special online site and broadcasts nationally, regionally and locally.

The great vessel was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyards on Belfast lough, now re-named 'Titanic Quarter'. Peter Johnston, controller of BBC Northern Ireland, told Ariel: 'We live in the shadow of the shipyard cranes and there's always been this pride in the shipyard and the craft skills involved in building Titanic, which was the biggest, most luxurious ship in the world at the time.'

Drama, documentaries and events

BBC Northern Ireland - whose Ormeau Avenue base is just a few miles from the dockyard - has commissioned a range of drama, documentaries and events covering all aspects of the Titanic story.

Johnston says they'll focus on the commemorative nature of the occasion - after all, more than 1500 people died when Titanic went down - but also mark the craftsmanship and skills that the Harland and Wolff workforce put into building the ship, which was the largest, most luxurious vessel afloat when she set off on her maiden voyage.

On Saturday, April 14 - the exact date Titanic hit the iceberg a hundred years ago, BBC Two and BBC NI will broadcast Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film live from Belfast's Waterfront Hall. The 90-minute show will use local and international actors, the Ulster Orchestra, massed choir performances, visual effects and archive and film material to tell the story of the ship, those who built her and those who ultimately perished or survived.

Letters, inquiries and legal action

Across the BBC Titanic-themed programming has already begun, nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland. Radio Ulster is running 42 specially commissioned readings, fronted by Belfast-born actor Ciaran Hinds, showcasing letters written about the ship as she was built, during the voyage and after she sank. Read by a stellar cast of Northern Irish celebrities, each letter is broadcast one hundred years to the day on which it was written.

BBC NI has also commissioned a drama based on transcripts from the Westminster Inquiry in the sinking. In part the inquiry considered whether the ship SS Californian had been close enough to Titanic to rescue some, at least, of those who died. Another documentary reveals the little-known story of the Limerick farmer who sued the White Star Line for negligence over the death of his son - and won.

BBC News will report on a commemorative voyage to the scene of the sinking, and memorial services in Southampton and Belfast, and Blue Peter will visit Belfast to bring the Titanic story to a new generation.

Remembering the crew

News Online and Digital Knowledge and Learning have also collaborated on a Titanic web portal with exclusive content, special interactive features and coverage of events.

BBC South, Radio Solent and Radio Merseyside will also have commemorative programming as members of the ship's crew came from their ports - more than a third of the victims lived in or around Southampton.

Johnston says: 'It's been such a powerful story for so long, yet stories are still coming to light and it has been fascinating to hear them. For example Mark Simpson [BBC News Ireland correspondent] has only just learnt that he is related to one of the doctors on Titanic, who performed with great heroism on the night. And he's shared that story with BBC audiences.

So even after all this time people are still finding out things they didn't know.'


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