Belfast and its Youth: Life at the Border

With the United Kingdom’s Brexit, Northern Ireland will also have to leave the EU – although most people here want to stay in the European Union. There is great concern that a hard border could revive the Northern Ireland conflict. Especially as the border region already offers few prospects. Toby Binder’s photo series “Wee Muckers” accompanies teenagers from six different Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods of Belfast and offers a glimpse into the everyday life of a whole generation.

»If I had been born at the top of my street, behind the corrugated-iron border, I would have been British. Incredible to think. My whole idea of myself, the attachments made to a culture, heritage, religion, nationalism and politics are all an accident of birth. I was one street away from being born my ‘enemy’«. Paul McVeigh, Belfast-born writer and author of the novel ‘The Good Son’.

Old conflicts may recur, compromising the youth’s future prospects

Photographer Toby Binder has been documenting the daily life of teenagers in British working-class communities for more than a decade. After the Brexit referendum he focussed his work on Belfast in Northern Ireland. There is a serious concern that Brexit will threaten the Peace Agreement of 1998 that ended the armed conflict between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists who live in homogeneous neighborhoods that are divided by walls till today. Old conflicts may recur, compromising the youth’s future prospects.

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Nevertheless, being underage, most teenagers were not allowed to vote in the referendum. Problems they struggle with are similar – no matter which side they live on. And whatever the effects of Brexit will be, it‘s very likely that they will strike especially young people from both communities.

Whatever comes of Brexit, the ramifications will be felt by communities on both sides

The images of the project “Youth of Belfast” were photographed in six different neighborhoods of Belfast. Binder’s photo essay depicts the ubiquity of unemployment, drug crime, and violence afflicting Belfast’s youth, whether they live on one side of the “Peace Wall” or the other. Whatever comes of Brexit, the ramifications will be felt by communities on both sides. The project accompanies teenagers in six different Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, providing an intimate and immediate insight into the daily lives of a whole generation.

 

“Wee Muckers – Youth of Belfast” is a long term photography work by Toby Binder. The hard cover book is published by German Kehrer Verlag.

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The topos issue 104 deals with the topic “border” from different perspectives and sheds light on the impact borders have on people, political processes, landscapes and urban space.