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16 October 2014
BBC Northern Ireland Learning - Citizenship - KS3/KS4

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Video vault

Video vault: Culture 2

(drumming)

BBC reporter:
A picturesque scene in the leafy suburbs of south Belfast. But this stretch of the River Lagan can no longer be called a beauty spot.

(drumming)

BBC reporter:
It's now one of the biggest eye sores in the entire city.

(drumming)

BBC reporter:
A growing mountain of rubbish and debris has appeared along the Annadale Embankment on land owned by Belfast City Council. On closer inspection this dump is in fact a bonfire site. It's still eight weeks to the Eleventh Night but the bonfire-makers began work here in February.

Graham Rankin:
The council would push it up and bulldoze it into the middle for us...

BBC reporter:
Meet the bonfire builders: Graham Rankin and David Patterson. This is their domain. For them the importance of celebrating the Twelfth of July cannot be overstated. And the Eleventh Night is a vital part of it all.

David Patterson:
It is one of the most important days of the year, particularly for being a Protestant. It's part of our tradition. The day will start off hopefully with activities for the children. Small, bouncy castles, things for the kids and then, during the day, it will be more cultural things for people. Try to get a bagpipe and a Lambeg drummer and teach the kids that there is more to the bonfire - there's the culture behind it all.

Graham Rankin:
What actually...

David Patterson:
...and why we do this.

BBC reporter:
Around the city of Belfast there is evidence that Eleventh Night bonfires are being built earlier and bigger than ever before.

Graham Rankin:
I don't know if you have ever celebrated an Eleventh Night. It's not over at 1 o'clock. No. It sort of goes right through into the Twelfth. I mean there's many people you watch when you are going to watch a parade or whatever on the Twelfth and they've still not been home from the night before. So I mean if the bonfire is starting to burn out about six o'clock in the morning, then that's a reasonable sized bonfire. We don't want a wee squally bonfire that's going to burn out in two hours.


BBC reporter:
For generations, people young and old have collected material for bonfires.
Building them remains a rite of passage for many in the Protestant community, as well as a statement of identity.

BBC reporter:
Why is it important for you to have a bonfire?

Sam McCartan:
Important? It's important to me to have a bonfire because I am Protestant and because of my culture. I have done it from I was about ten years of age. It has always been a part of life for me to do this here. I don't see that I am doing any harm at all. We are only here to have a bonfire. I did it. My dad done it. My grand-dad done it. It's just a part of our culture.

(Extract from BBC's Spotlight programme 18/05/2004)



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