February 22, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Belfast Barman

The Belfast Barman, or Kris Nixon as he is known to friends and family, was born in Dundonald and went to Braniel Primary School in East Belfast. He is 28. He moved to Brighton, England for High School; them to London for University for a few months but ended up back in Belfast again. He has spent "far too long behind a bar" and now writes for a living. 

 Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" KN:

"I had heard mention of it I’m sure as a child, but nothing that stuck. I remember in England learning a little bit about it due to the parents of a friend of mine mentioning the film Michael Collins, and when I knew nothing about it – they, incredulous at my ignorance of “my own country’s history, told me a film-synopsis. I went to Dublin a few years ago now for a weekend and visited Kilmainham Jail… I’m pretty sure all the actual stuff I know about it comes from that visit. Including the Tricolor being Orange and not Gold."

BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" KN:

"Not really, I’m not a nationalist by any means – I can understand wanting political autonomy for sure but I just don’t get behind the concept of, “I’m from this bit of land and you’re not, so you’re my enemy,” – it’s a bit too, “four legs good, two legs bad,” for my liking."

BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" KN:

"My grandad was a member of the RAOB, or ‘Buffs’ and his lodge was named after Douglas Haig, I also remember standing on the Newtownards Road and the Cregagh Road as a kid watching the bands go up and down with their brightly coloured banners often depicting scenes from that era and with slogans or messages referencing, among other battles, The Somme."

BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" KN:

"I’m by no means a pacifist, and maybe it’s just with hindsight that this can be said, but… if ever an army would have been justified in mutinying en masse… it was at the Battle of the Somme. Blindly following their commander’s orders led to such unimaginable loss of life… for what, 5 or 6 miles? Yes, they died fighting for what most of them would have considered the greater good… but to paraphrase Churchill, never has so much been lost for so little."

BJS: "As a (Northern Irish*) person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" KN:

"Not at all, I’d like to learn more about it as I respect that it shapes much of the thinking that we face today, but it means nothing personally to me – in the same way that American Independence Day means nothing to me. It happened long ago and in no way affects me personally, I like to know about these kinds of things as it still affects other people, but to me it’s a non-event."

BJS: "As a (Northern Irish*) person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" KN:

"Again, not really. The World Wars have an effect on me in general, quite a strong one actually, the loss of life is impossible not to be touched me. I’m a huge Blackadder fan and despite seeing it a couple of hundred times… I can’t watch the final scene of season 4 without tears flowing down my cheeks… The Somme doesn’t have anything to do with my identity or my belonging, I respect that is does for many and that my peers have lost relatives in the not too distant past in events such as this, and that’s terrible – I don’t know my family history, as far as I know I have no link to the Somme – and I’m glad for that."

BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" KN:

"I hope to attend a few events to learn a bit more about them and to learn some of the personal stories that are being shared, but commemorating or celebrating is not my intention."

BJS: "As a person on (or from) the island are you happy with the where we are now at in terms of culture, cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness?" KN:
"Not even remotely. I genuinely cannot think of a single aspect of life in Northern Ireland that is ‘in a good place’. Our culture is in a permanent state of schism, we’re 1 step up in cosmopolitanism from Craggy Island and as much as many of the people I would deal with on a regular basis would be broad-minded, as a society – as a collective group of many and varied people – nope, narrow minded, insular and sad."

 BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" KN:

"I’m aware of the melodrama here… but death. I think the best hope for the future of this province is as people who are entrenched in the battles of the recent past die, hopefully…hopefully, the generations to come will lose touch with the events of the 60’s, 70’s and 70’s… in the same way that we now know of the Somme and the Easter Rising… but very few are directly affected by it. In time, we can heal. Our best hopes are either the resolution produced through the passage of time or some sort of mass accident causing very specific amnesia, deleting out a few decades from societies collective memories."
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