Produced by Westway Films for UTV, with the assistance of the Community Relations Council and Northern Ireland Screen, “Homelands to Townlands” presents some of the very personal, human stories behind the cold facts and figures of immigration.
HOMELANDS TO TOWNLANDS
The homelands referred to in the title of this new five part UTV series on immigration might be in the Punjab, Taiwan, the Phillipines, East Timor, Italy, Poland, Latvia – or, indeed any of the new accession states of the rapidly expanding European Union. This, by no means exhaustive, list of countries, which many of our ethnic minorities regard as “homelands”, gives us some idea of the increasing richness and diversity of the population of Northern Ireland.
Produced by Westway Films for UTV, with the assistance of the Community Relations Council and Northern Ireland Screen, “Homelands to Townlands” presents some of the very personal, human stories behind the cold facts and figures of immigration. The final programme will take a snapshot of the current patterns of migration and how they have impacted on the townlands of Ulster, but the first two parts of the series go back well over a hundred years to when the Jewish and Italian communities first began to establish themselves in Belfast and beyond. We then move into the early and middle 20th century to mark the foundation of the Indian and then Chinese communities in Northern Ireland.
The very first programme in “Homelands to Townlands” which will be screened on UTV at 11.05pm, Tuesday 22nd January, looks at the Jewish experience in Northern Ireland as seen, mainly, through the eyes of Belfast chef, Melvyn Goldberger. A series of quite bizarre coincidences, involving the Titanic, World War II and the shirt industry all combined to leave this particular representative of the Jewish diaspora with the life-long conviction, “I really shouldn’t be here at all.”
A common thread in the programmes is the journey back home that each of the main contributors was encouraged to make and the pictures, the home movies, really, that each of them brought back. “I think that’s what makes these programmes about real people, “says director Orlagh Bann. “We asked each of them to bring us back video pictures of their homelands, the places in which they, their parents or grandparents were born. That simple device gave us the ability to see what was important to each individual – that made their stories more intimate and their sense of attachment often very moving.
In the second programme in the series, Tuesday 29th, 11.05pm, Leo D’Agostino, a lecturer in English at St. Mary’s University College in Belfast, gives us an intimate account of what it was like to grow up as a second generation Italian here and retraces the journey back to central Italy that he as a child, his parents and grandparents had undertaken so many times in the past.