This little Docky went to market

ByiKoiWCQAAFrrJ.jpg-largeMade your plans yet for a nice chilled-out Saturday tomorrow?  Well forget everything else in your diary, here’s what you’re going to do: head down to the Titanic Quarter between 11 and 4 and check out the amazingness that’s happening at Dock Market these days.

Bxan62vCQAAdQjX.jpg-largeLast time I visited the market, intending maybe to get a bite of lunch and have a wee potter around, I left with my arms full of purchases (and my pockets empty of money, but I didn’t care!) – the quality, uniqueness, craftsmanship and sheer brilliance of what’s on offer at Dock Market these days is really quite breathtaking.

BxanIGdIQAEXkDE.jpg-largeAs well as a mouthwateringly fantastic lunch (steak sandwich with béarnaise sauce…mmmmm….) I went home with some delicious homemade spicy American relish (which has graced every single panini and sandwich I’ve made ever since), some Oreo cookie ByiwfeXCYAE5Y8L.jpg-largecupcakes (which might just be the best invention ever ever), a bag of hand-blended gourmet tea (Mint Humbug – isn’t that the best flavour of tea?) and even some jewellery…

(Before you start to worry, the jewellery was for Susan and she loved it) It’s great to get chatting to all these ByithR0IAAAB5ij.jpg-largecreative types as well – Laura goes beachcombing in Donaghadee after every high tide, looking for interesting bits and pieces to become the raw materials for her jewellery stall. How much better than some bland mass-produced gift…

And of course I’d rather support Dock Market traders any day, every one of them a handmade homemade local enterprise, than buy something identikit from a global brand or a massive retailer.

BzHYuOXIcAAze3F.jpg-largeI’m just so proud of what the Dock Market team have achieved.  Just like Dock Cafe, they started with little more than an empty space – but the application of some creativity, generosity (we’re getting some AMAZING donations of furniture – check out this amazing industrial-chic sofa!) and a lot of extremely hard work has resulted in Belfast’s best bet for a lovely laid-back Saturday.

It’s another case of the Titanic Quarter showcasing Belfast creativity at its best.  Where once we built ships – today we create art – and cook steak sandwiches – and design fashion – and upcycle seashells – and invent new cupcakes – and make bendy paintings – and create gourmet waffles – and – and – and…

The story of the shipyard – in three pictures

IMG_0335The next time you feel stuck in a rut, discouraged or trapped, pay a visit to the Dock prayer garden and seek out this little reminder that change, transformation and hope are all around us…

Unless you’re a sad shipyard nerd like me, you might not have noticed the careful placement of pictures on the wall of the garden.  The one you can’t miss is the massive shipyard model (on loan from the Drawing Offices) which was created in about 1980 (as best we can guess) to show off Belfast’s massive shipbuilding empire:

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As you can see the model has suffered a few knocks over the years and a few bits have fallen off – which is nothing compared to the real-life story FullSizeRender-2of the yard through the decades after the model was built.  So many of those little grey wooden blocks represent workshops, paint halls, offices, stores and sheds which are now long gone.  Ten years ago, contrasting the thriving industry of that model with the largely-deserted reality would have been a sobering exercise.

But that’s not the end of the story… the next picture (again on loan from TQ Ltd) is the architect’s vision of what could be built on that once-thriving site.  (I know it looks like a photo, but look closely and you’ll see that everything except the crane and the Odyssey is just a computer-generated projection – a dream of what could be):

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I’m sure there were times when that artist’s impression looked like a far-off dream.  But today, a photograph from that same angle looks almost identical to the computer-generated vision – but this time with real homes and shops and offices (and a stupendously-wonderful Honesty Box cafe) in place of pixels:

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And widen out the view (as this picture is one of Wesley Ellis’s fantastic panorama photographs) and you’ll see that not only at the ARC, but all across the TQ, dreams are becoming reality – the Met, Titanic Belfast, Nomadic, all our amazing neighbours and all the life they bring:

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So, these pictures are now side-by-side in the Prayer Garden, telling the story of a shipyard, that became a wasteland, that became a vision, that became a reality.  How appropriate that they’re in a garden, a place of constant growth, renewal and rebirth.

The next time you feel stuck – call in and have a look!

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What a fabulous night on Sunday night, as we gathered on board SS Nomadic for a bit of history in the making: the first ever baptism in the Titanic Quarter.

Bz0ZjJBCYAEeOyL.jpg-largeHistory in the making for the Dock Chaplains as well, as we had spent some time getting our heads together to figure out what a ‘Dock Baptism’ looks like – and so we came up with a service which included elements from all our different traditions. Little Lily was baptised not by any one tradition or denomination but by the team of Dock Chaplains, representing the new shared city we’re building.

And a great day for the great neighbours of the Abercorn Basin in Titanic Quarter. Amazing to think that a year or two ago, none of us knew each other… But there we were on Sunday, Lily (and her mum and dad Andy and Jenny) from the TQ Mace, the team of chaplains and volunteers from the Dock, and our great neighbours from SS Nomadic, all gathering together to celebrate a new life.
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These are the building blocks of community… The little steps that suggest that Life In The Titanic Quarter isn’t just the slogan above the door of the Dock – It’s becoming a reality.

2014-08-01 16.28.51These things were still swirling in my mind when I was sent a link to an article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian (so you may want to make yourself a cup of herbal tea and some mung beans before reading it.  Only joking, Guardian readers!  Keep your Birkenstocks on)

His article – The Age Of Loneliness Is Killing Us – is a warning siren about the way the modern world is making us more and more isolated – and doing immense damage in the process:

Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults. Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people… Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut. We cannot cope alone.

It’s a brilliant, alarming piece and I encourage you to read it.

Bzq0KCQIAAAYTNk.jpg-largeBut what really struck me about the article is that someone (thanks Christine!) read it and straight away thought of The Dock, and got in touch to see if I’d read it. A potent reminder that in the middle of grinding coffee beans, preparing the pop-up picnic, manning the market and baptising babies, this is what we’re all about.

Bryn4FVIEAAr7OL.jpg-largeLoneliness is killing us. And in the Titanic Quarter, no-one has to be lonely any more. Neighbours are connecting. Community is growing. Chat and prayer and conversation and life are flourishing. The kettle is on.