William Crawley: Seeing Belfast film was like living my childhood again

Radio Ulster’s William Crawley, who went to the same north Belfast primary school as Kenneth Branagh, suggested that those who have criticised the new Belfast film may have missed the point.

By Graeme Cousins
Friday, 21st January 2022, 6:26 pm

The broadcaster, who attended the premiere in the Waterfront Hall in November, said: “It was a lovely event, it felt like a town or a village getting together.

“You could tell it was very important to Kenneth Branagh. He cried quite a bit when he was making his speeches, it obviously brought it all back.”

Of the film, which opened in the UK yesterday, William said: “It took me back to my childhood. I’d a very similar childhood to [Kenneth Branagh]. We grew up in the same area, went to the same primary school – Grove Primary School, which is no longer there.”

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Broadcaster William Crawley went to the same school as Kenneth Branagh

In 2010 Grove Primary School in at North Queen Street was demolished.

William said: “There must be 10 years between us. He was out of Grove Primary School by the time I got there.

“In that 10 year period the world around us had changed so much, largely due to the Troubles.”

He continued: “All the references in the film take me back to that period. It just felt like my childhood too.

“The nostalgia of those wee two up, two down houses. I grew up in a house like that with a toilet out the back.

“Grove Park is still there. I remember my friends and I would take turns leaping off the hill and swinging off a rope attached to a tree. “It was those childhood experiences I connected with the most.

“I also remember my parents keeping a lot of stuff from me about what was going on, the vigilante movement, they obviously didn’t want to scare me.

“Kids always know more than their parents realise. I connected a lot with that, piecing things together what was going on.

“It was like living my childhood again through the eyes of the young actor Jude Hill who carried the whole show as Buddy. It was an extraordinary performance from him.

“We’re seeing a very difficult time in our history through the eyes of a child.”

Of Branagh’s vision for the film, William said: “He has made it clear that this is not an historical account of the Troubles.

“It’s not his life, it’s not his memoir. It could be anywhere in the world – it’s a child approaching adolescence, the family dynamic, the chaos of a particular world around you and how you negotiate those moral challenges as a family and as individuals. I think that’s why it connects so well to people living far beyond here.

“If you read it that way then I think some of those criticisms that have been made seem to be predicated on a misreading of the film.”

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