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Lynette Fay: Winter has come for Game Of Thrones fans but there's a spring in our step

The positive, upbeat side of Belfast was to the forefront with everyone involved in Game Of Thrones. The city and many other areas around the north have been used to make the series. It has certainly showcased the beauty of places used

Actors Ian Beattie, who is from Belfast, Isaac Hempstead Wright and Liam Cunningham at this week's launch of the Game Of Thrones touring exhibition at the city's Titanic Exhibition Centre. Picture by Hugh Russell
Lynette Fay

WINTER is here. The final season of Game Of Thrones begins tomorrow night on US TV, Monday night on this side of the Atlantic. My cousin has been obsessed with the books for years. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I decided to dip into this fantasy world to find out what all the fuss was about. I am glad that I did. I love it.

This fan girl was in her element last Wednesday morning as I joined a local and world media ‘pack’ at the Titanic Exhibition Centre (TEC) for the launch of the Game Of Thrones touring exhibition. We were promised an audience with three actors from the series so there was much anticipation about who would make an appearance.

We weren’t disappointed: Ser Davos Seaworth, Bran Stark and Ser Meryn Trant (Liam Cunningham, Isaac Hempstead Wright and Ian Beattie) entered stage right, along with Robin Stapely, Jeff Peters, and award-winning costume designer Michelle Clapton.

Michelle gave a fascinating insight into the creation of the costumes for a cast of literally, thousands. She had to visualise armies who represented different territories and modelled some of her work on the great ancient Persian and Roman armies. Warriors, wildlings, The Night’s Watch, queens, kings, advisors, peasants, scholars and zombies. All the tribes and lead actors had a bespoke wardrobe and look.

That’s what makes the touring exhibition so special. Many of these costumes, which are works of art, are on display. Liam Cunningham paid tribute to the magnificent costumes of the series, saying that he truly said goodbye to his character, Ser Davos Seaworth, when he hung his costume up for the final time. He took a moment to look at it and let the experience really sink in.

The costumes became the characters, the characters owned the costumes. It couldn’t have been any other way on Game Of Thrones.

Game Of Thrones has been filmed here for the past 10 years. It was interesting to hear the observations of Liam Cunningham and Isaac Hempstead Wright, particularly, of their time in Belfast. They gushed about the city and its people.

Their comments seemed to be genuine, but cynically, I can’t help but think that all cast members were warned to say nothing negative of their experience after one of the main actors, Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, famously told US talk show host Seth Meyers in 2015 that Belfast had a "wonderfully depressing tourist board". He later apologised for his comments.

I’m not sure that he had to. A fair proportion of Belfast tourism revolves around a ship which was built here, sank on its maiden voyage and thousands lost their lives. That is depressing, in my opinion.

However, the positive, upbeat side of Belfast was to the forefront with everyone involved in Game Of Thrones on Wednesday morning. The city and many other areas around the north have been used to make the series. It has certainly showcased the beauty of places used.

It does get to me that counties Tyrone, large parts of Derry, and Armagh never seem to make the cut as film locations. It would be great if the tourist board, NI Screen and other stakeholders might think about developing the promotion of these counties going forward. Share the investment.

We sat in TEC on Wednesday morning, on the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Twenty one years ago it was unimaginable that a universally franchised television series would be filmed here.

The night before, the final episode of Derry Girls, also filmed here, reminded us of the sense of hope for a better future that we dared to feel at that time.

The creative industries have undoubtedly flourished in the last 21 years, but they need more support in order for this to continue.

The 19th Belfast Film festival started on Thursday evening and runs until April 20. As well as showcasing international films and film-making expertise, local talent is also championed.

The opening film of this year’s festival, A Bump Along The Way, was written, produced and directed by three women. The cast is headed up by Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew and Mary Moulds – all locals. It was a real, human story told with heart and humour. It was wonderful and was made possible because individuals who have passion, conviction and confidence fight to make good ideas into reality.

Winter has come for Game Of Thrones fans, and there’s a spring in the step of the local film-makers.

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