Growing up in Belfast

Young women in Belfast talk about their lives as they move from education to employment.


I want to be a nurse, so first I'm saving up to do an access course in being a carer. I’m going to try to get funding, but I don't think I will get it.

At the moment, I'm a waitress in a nightclub. I've always liked bar work, and I like the atmosphere of working in a club. I enjoy the vibe - it’s very upbeat, and the craic is good. There are sleazy guys, but you kind of ignore them. If they are really bad I get them kicked out.

I'm in from 9pm until after 3am. For a while there weren't many girls working here, it was all boys. We’re kind of like a family. I hope to go on to become a manager.

Growing up in Belfast is probably different from everywhere else because so much of it is to do with religion (Catholic and Protestant). There are certain places you just couldn't go, but I grew up in the countryside so I avoided it.

It’s not so bad now, but years ago it would have been a wee bit hard.

This area is very mixed. My Mum is a Protestant and my Dad's a Catholic, so we are kind of integrated.


I am a youth worker at a super-church. We have a congregation of around 1,000, and there is a gym, cafes, children's soft-play areas and a college attached to the church.

We don’t describe ourselves as religious - it’s about a relationship with Jesus.

I only became a Christian at 19. Before that my perception of church was that you had to look a certain way and be a certain person to fit in. I would never walk into a church because I would feel judged.

I used to go out and party, and I drank and all that stuff - so when I'm working with young people, I'm not so judgmental.

When I decided to properly commit to God, I decided I didn't want to party and do drugs. I had to distance myself from that lifestyle.

Before, I felt like there was something missing in my life. You’re always searching for something and trying to fill your life with different things - partying, relationships.

Then I came here and I thought, 'Wow, God is fun'.

A lot of traditional churches don't let women preach from the pulpit, but here I may preach on Fridays. I think it’s good to have equal rights in the church.


Over the past decade and a half, Belfast has focused on transforming itself into a vibrant cultural centre. Here we talk to two artist friends.

Because of my shaved head, people immediately make judgements about me - just because I am not conforming to how a traditional woman should look.

But I don’t get drunk or take drugs. I'm also religious.

We are a minimum of 10 years behind the mainland.

The Troubles were a critical time. The 70s and 80s were so important in art and culture [elsewhere]. But here we were too busy fighting. Who would care about art when the city is in upheaval?

The stuff we're making now is irrelevant to anyone past the age of 35 because people are close-minded.


I’m personally an atheist. My family are very strict Protestant but they respect my decision.

Women here in my eyes are very traditional. Boys like the "beauty queen woman" - the nails, the long hair and tan.

Lucy and I are complete opposites but we're friends. I've done all those things she would never do, and lived the life she is opposed to, and she's never judged me.


I work part-time as a waitress. Before I started doing that the real dream was to do veterinary nursing.

I also work as a volunteer at World of Owls, which is a charity.

I started there on a work placement and had to do 300 hours. I decided to stay on. I met my boyfriend here - we both work with the birds.

I don't do much other than working and sleeping.

Hopefully, I’ll get to become a veterinary nurse - but at the moment, it is on hold as I'm saving up for different things.

I don't want to go to university, though.

You get the odd bump and scrape working with the birds, but you don't get attacked by them.

Not many women work in this area, but it depends on the animal. Most of my friends are into hair and beauty, I'm the only one who works with birds of prey.

I've got a small bird at home - he's called Chiko and he's my baby.

Sarah, Rachel, Rachael, Laura and Anna


There is so much pressure on young women. The beauty queen industry can make you feel bad because you are surrounded by so many beautiful girls. You can feel so overwhelmed. A lot of these girls have done so many pageants, but when you chat to them, you realise they are great people.

There is also a lot of pressure from the media and social media - such as Instagram. When you look at reality TV shows like Made In Chelsea, and you see these girls and think it’s realistic - it’s not.

You can buy the most expensive things and still not look like that.

I am a feminist - I believe in equality of the sexes.

Eventually, I want to be a speech and language therapist.


For Miss Northern Ireland, you have to be between 17 and under 24. I took part this year. You have to do a fashion shoot, a bikini shoot and a ball gown shoot.

There has been division here [Northern Ireland], but the pageants help bring people together. I’m from near the border and I’d never met girls from the north coast before.

I've just graduated and plan to do social work next year.