Client: Tourism NI Fund
As part of a sustainable master plan to regenerate the Portview site, we secured a capital grant to develop a pop-up banana museum onsite. Having partnered with National Museums NI, this initiative will permit the testing of bold ideas to inform the site’s long term museum offer. By reframing the response “it’s not for me”, the project challenges normative understandings of ‘the museum’ and seeks to reframe its ethos and organisation through a novel philosophy that will engage with new audiences from a range of backgrounds. This will provide a truly innovative, authentic, and unique museum experience that will add to the richness of National Museums NI’s existing portfolio.
Fields of Practice
Why Bananas you ask? And what’s an old spinning mill steeped in Belfast’s rich linen heritage got to do with this? Well, in 1911, while the Titanic was preparing to set sail, East Belfast resident William Richardson, who worked as the head gardener for the orthogonal mill owner, became one of the first people in the British Isles to grow ripe edible bananas - yes, in East Belfast!
Amid political unrest and conflict across the province, the banana then emerged as a symbol of unity 21 years later when Catholic and Protestant workers came together in 1932 to protest the unfair working conditions of the city’s mills. Marching along to Louis Prima’s “Yes We Have No Bananas”, the banana acts as a conduit for Belfast’s industrial heritage and reclaims a positive memory that demonstrates a collective mindset of how diversity and inclusion can be achieved even during the worst of times.
From January 2021 to September 2021, from concept to delivery for Banana Block at Portview.
Banana Block is a ‘living museum’ with an active focus on creating the future, not re-creating the past. It will be alive through the beating pulse of people getting involved, connecting and creating, with heritage and with each other. It will be alive because it never stays still, always reinventing its impact through co-created ideas and dynamic partnerships, placing heritage, sustainability and creativity and the centre of the community.
Featuring pop-up exhibitions, a flexible event space, an indoor ring of exotic plants (including banana trees) and a zero-waste cafe and onsite tenant makers and producers, Banana Block will redefine what a museum looks like and turn the viewers focus to the future.
Want to see more? Take a look at the way we’re responding to changes in the way we live, work and play.
Portview Trade Centre
310 Newtownards Rd, Belfast BT4 1HE
Designed and developed by USI