A Church of England minister and Elvis impersonator has walked the peace line to encourage peace-building in Belfast.
The Reverend Elvis, aka the Rev Andy Kelso, travelled to Belfast after being approached by Rev Jack Lamb, minister of Townsend Street Presbyterian Church.
“Jack heard about my ministry of the Elvis Presley tribute act, and flew over before Christmas to see a concert I was doing,” said Rev Kelso.
“He was taken by it and realised that one common denominator of Catholics and Protestants is their love of Elvis Presley.”
Rev Kelso said after a decision was made to stage a concert in Belfast, “we thought to promote it that Elvis should walk the peace line, sing a few songs, talk to people and invite them along”.
He said he found “seeing the plaques to people who have been murdered very sad”.
“But all the way along people were tooting horns, winding down their windows and shouting hello to Elvis and talking to us along the street.
“There was no abuse and I felt people needed some joy. I was very moved by it and I think if we can just encourage all the people we saw and spoke to, to come to the tribute act, then that would be a start.”
The 66-year-old grandfather said during his ministry he “generally goes to churches where people want to build bridges within their community”.
Rev Lamb said he thought Elvis was the perfect choice because “Elvis carries no sectarian baggage”. “He’s equally loved on both sides of the peace line wall and to me that’s thrilling because, so often when you try and organise an event, you discover it’s seen as either a Protestant event or a Catholic event,” he added.
Rev Kelso said during his concerts he “offers the best of Elvis which is rock, ballad and gospel”.
“Elvis loved his gospel and I weave in a few stories about his life and his spiritual journey which most people know nothing about,” he added.
“I find that gospel songs connect with people’s hearts and they have a great night and get food for thought. And if it does any good in building bridges in the community then it has to be a good thing.
“Around the UK Belfast is the number one place where barriers need to come down.”
The Elvis Tribute Concert will be held in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church on April 5 at 7pm.
“We hope to get people from everywhere,” he added. “We hope people will get excited about it and come along and see it for themselves.
“The walk along the peaceline has certainly stirred an interest and we pray it stirred enough of an interest for people to come along. And if we find through it that relationships will be better in Belfast, then that will be fantastic.”