A NEW brand aimed at marketing a unionist stronghold of Belfast to the growing tourist trade has been launched.
The Shankill – Original Belfast brand was hailed as "leading the way" for other parts of the city and Northern Ireland to develop themselves as attractive tourist destinations.
Launched in the Shankill Library – and endorsed by local politicians including Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, Finance Minister Nigel Dodds, Shankill councillor Diane Dodds and North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland – the brand taps into the rich cultural history of the greater Shankill area.
Delving into the traditions and history of the area, the developers discovered Shankill was the original parish on which the city of Belfast was founded, and have taken this as their lead.
With numerous documents claiming there has been human settlement on the Shankill – originating from the Gaelic Sean Cill, meaning Old Church – dating back to 455 AD, the people behind the brand are using that to claim the area is the "original Belfast".
A logo has been developed to incorporate that message – similar to the kind found on designer jeans and old whiskeys – and have emblazoned it on a number of items, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps and mugs, and there are also designs made up to have it printed onto local shopping bags, postcards, posters and computer mouse mats.
Mark Thompson, design director with Being Communications who designed the brand, said orders for some of the T-shirts had already come in, and he hoped they would soon get the funding to set up a tourist outlet in the Spectrum Centre which would sell the merchandise.
"The Shankill name is world famous," Mr Thompson said. "We should take advantage of that."
Minister Foster said with its new branding, the Shankill is "leading the way" in marketing itself to tourists, and she hoped other towns and cities in Northern Ireland would follow its example and "take up the challenge".
"All the great cities throughout the world have different parts to their cities," she said. "If you go to New York for example, there's Brooklyn and the Bronx, in London there's Covent Garden and Soho. We are hoping when people come to Belfast they will go to the Titanic Quarter and the Shankill and get that authentic feeling of Belfast.
"Despite many current economic challenges, it's important to continue to promote Northern Ireland as a place to visit and I believe this sort of thing very much makes Belfast that little bit different for people to want to come to."
She said she thought the new brand "identified" what the Shankill was about, and was "very simple – as all good marketing tools are".
And at the end Mrs Foster didn't hesitate to don a bright red Shankill T-shirt, after proudly telling the audience she was "looking forward to getting my T-shirt and wearing it in Fermanagh".