As a freelance photojournalist based in the North of Ireland, Vincent Dargan worked independently on a series of real life projects throughout the years of the Troubles in his native city of Belfast. The
As a freelance photojournalist based in the North of Ireland, Vincent Dargan worked independently on a series of real life projects throughout the years of the Troubles in his native city of Belfast. The rewards from those valuable and varied streetwise experiences are clearly evident in this remarkable collection. The Vincent Dargan Collection is a unique photographic, audio and audio-visual record of social and cultural life in Belfast since 1969. While much of the research material that has emerged on the Troubles to date has focused on the main political and historical events of the last 30 years and the key figures involved (political and paramilitary etc.), one of the most interesting aspects of this collection is that it is principally concerned with the large majority of ordinary people and how they lived and survived the changes which occurred – mainly in Belfast – throughout these years.
The collection is comprised of some 20,000 Black & White and Colour photographs (with negatives), 100 C90 audiocassettes, 50 (4 hour) VCR videocassettes and 50 hrs of footage on 5 inch 4 track open reel audiotape and CDs. There is also an archival collection of transcribed human interest stories with images relating to local characters both famous and infamous of a past and present generation of people from the many closely knit communities in West Belfast such as ‘the Pound Loney,’ ‘the Lower Wack’ (Lower Falls), the Shankill Road and Ligoniel. The stories were the result of many interviews carried out by Vincent Dargan and the collection is now in the process of being digitised although it has not yet been possible to catalogue it. The material spans the whole period of the Troubles from the late 1960s to the present day. The photographic and audio collection and written stories are particularly interesting for the manner in which they reveal the social lives of working-class people in Belfast (West Belfast and the Lower Falls area in particular) during the early years of the Troubles, recording their living, working and social conditions. Photographs of individuals (often people who were well-known or carried out a special role in the communities involved such as shop-keepers, postmen, binmen, coalmen, ragmen, women street traders and market dealers etc) are in fact often accompanied with audio footage in which the subjects relate in their own words their life-stories and experiences of their native area in terms of its history and the changes they have witnessed. From the early 1980s onward this kind of material was also recorded audio-visually. One of the specific aims of this part of the project was to capture the lives of communities which were on the point of extinction or were undergoing rapid change as a result of urban redevelopment and the Troubles. The collection thus holds unique insights into the way of life in communities of Belfast that have long since disappeared or have changed immeasurably.
While the main part of the collection is concerned with the urban environment and living and working conditions, a significant amount of material also relates to the cultural and political lives of people in Belfast and to a lesser extent in Derry/Londonderry during the Troubles. These often capture the deeply felt religious beliefs and traditional customs of the people involved and once again they are recorded in all three formats. Some of the main subjects included are: the architecture and urban landscape with photographs in particular of the facades of old Buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Europa Hotel and the Crown Bar; numerous Orange Order marches on their routes to and from the field; an Orange pageant at Windsor Park; Nationalist and Republican marches; street protests; campaigns for peace including the Peace Train organised by Sam McAughtry; street parties; festivals and fleadhs; war commemorations; street preachers and religious protests; street musicians; and visits by politicians, world leaders and dignitaries including members of the royal family, US president Bill Clinton, British Prime Ministers (Edward Heath, John Major and Tony Blair), Westminster MPs, local MLAs, and the Dalai Lama and other Church and religious leaders. Among the most interesting political materials in the collection are the photographs of Belfast barricades, the arrival of British troops in the early years of the Troubles, the nationalist and loyalists wall murals (both political and cultural) and the extensive series of pictures of local politicians. Finally, and perhaps the most unique part of the collection, is the 40hrs of recording from Radio Free Belfast (an illegal radio station broadcast by members of the Civil Rights Movement and People’s Democracy) during 1969-70 and a few illusive hrs of footage from the short-lived Radio Free Ulster (another illegal radio station broadcast by loyalist supporters) also from 1969-70. The radio recordings were originally recorded on 5 inch 4 Track open reel with a very old HMV recording audiotape machine but they have now been translated to digital sets of Audio CDs.