Whatever happened to our Orangefest hopes?

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This week, our dead-slow political process will switch to its only other speed. It’ll stop for the summer, also known as the ‘marching season’.

This week, our dead-slow political process will switch to its only other speed. It’ll stop for the summer, also known as the ‘marching season’.

Things look settled in Derry, but dog in the manger tactics have ensured the ‘Twelfth’ remains contentious in Belfast.

Do you remember much ado, some years ago, about ‘Orangefest’? It was launched in a blaze of publicity. Billed as a “rebranding of the Twelfth as a family-friendly, inclusive festival,” it begged the obvious question about why Orangemen thought the Twelfth needed “rebranding,” but that’s beside the point. Anyway, the “rebranding” hasn’t caught-on.

That’s not surprising. The idea was to add events to the traditional parade so that the whole day could be marketed like a village, church or school fun day. You’ll know the sort of innocuous things those organisations hold with fancy-dress parades, bouncy castles, face painting and so on. Face painting would have made a nice change from kerb painting although the fancy-dress might have been a bit old bowler hat. Of course, it was all doomed.

What’s the use of harmless fun for showing ‘the other side’ who’s boss? No, it takes a good old traditional parade for that with as much belligerent noise and swagger as possible. There was a tongue-in-cheek mention in a local paper the other day of tourists in Belfast searching in vain for “Orangefest”. That set me wondering if it still existed.

A Google search took me to a website which billed “Orangefest” as “an initiative of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast”.

That sounded promising but immediately below it said, “We Currently have No Events Planned. Check Back Soon!” [Sic]. Now there’s creative use of capital letters and punctuation, I thought to myself, even before it sunk in that meant the so-called “initiative” was no initiative. A strategy document assured us that Orangefest organisers saw, “Cultural tourism as a growing industry,” and that they were, “determined to play their part in developing this sector of business”.

That only reinforced the point, that, the “growing” number of culture seeking tourists would be disappointed by, “We Currently have No Events Planned” [sic]. Still, the marching season is inclined to creep up on us so I’ll, “Check Back Soon!!” [Sic].

The problem is that with just two weeks to go it doesn’t allow all those tourists much time to plan their journey from the remoter corners of the earth. Could the much vaunted “Orangefest” have gone the way of the Unionist Forum that was to put the flag back on Belfast City Hall and last-year’s “Graduated Response” that was to prevent the brethren being stuck in a wee caravan at Twadell Avenue? A curious a class of conundrum has arisen. As the Orangemen leave their homes early on the Twelfth morning things could feel slightly surreal. Maybe they’ll reflect on the fact that they haven’t arrived home from their last two marches yet here they are they’re leaving home for another one. Now there’s an Irish riddle for you! How do you leave home three times without returning home once?