Appeal for stories of the 'most bombed hotel in Europe'

europa Former US president Bill Clinton stayed at the Europa Hotel

It is known as one of the most bombed hotels in Europe, but 2011 marks the 40th year that Belfast's Europa hotel has been open for business.

From a home for journalists during the Troubles, to a refuge for celebrities escaping the press, the hotel has been a source of many stories over the years.

And now some documentary filmmakers are appealing to local people to come forward with their own personal tales about the Great Victoria Street landmark.

'Camaraderie'

A one-hour film is being made by Waddell Media for BBC Northern Ireland to mark the Europa's 40th anniversary.

Director Richard Weller said that through his research for the film so far he had been particularly struck by the "camaraderie of the staff and the fondness of people's memories from both sides of the community".

"It seems whatever was going on outside, inside everyone got on and worked together to keep the hotel going through some really difficult times," he said.

During the Troubles, the hotel was frequently damaged by bomb attacks.

The use of hardboard as a temporary substitute for shattered glass, led to it being known as 'the hardboard hotel'.

But the Europa was never destroyed and only closed its doors twice briefly in its 40 year history.

And despite numerous bombings it has seen its fair share of glamour.

Many famous guests have graced its rooms, including singer Lionel Richie, pop group Atomic Kitten, golfer Bob Charles, and actress Patricia Hodge.

It has even provided shelter to Hollywood film stars and an American president.

President Bill Clinton visited in 1995, and Julia Roberts is said to have stayed there to escape the media.

The filmmakers are now keen to talk to local people who have tales of their own.

Mr Weller said, "whether its having breakfast next to Tom Jones, scraping together enough money to have a coke in the exclusive penthouse club served by Belfast's model waitresses the Penthouse Poppets, or trying to get your favourite bands autograph through the security fencing.

"We also want to hear from anyone whose had their evening cut short by a bomb scare or someone part of the crowd who watched George Styles (an army bomb expert) tentatively pull a bomb out with fishing wire."

Those with stories can contact Anna Phipps annaphipps@waddellmedia.com.

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