Belfast Goes ‘Bananas’ for New Living Museum

'Banana Block' at Portview to bear fruit for tourism in East Belfast

This weekend (Saturday October 23) will see the opening of ‘Banana Block’, a new living museum and events space in East Belfast designed to boost tourism in the area and restore a part of Belfast’s heritage that dates back more than 100 years.

As far back as 1911, William Richardson, head gardener to former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir Otto Jaffe, successfully cultivated ripe bananas in East Belfast.

Jaffe was also the owner of Strand Spinning Mill on the Newtownards Road, once the largest flax tow spinning mill in the world, and now better known as Portview Trade Centre – home of ‘Banana Block’.

‘Banana Block’ is the first step in transforming Portview into a tourism oasis and a unique hub for innovation, creativity and culture in the heart of East Belfast.

As well as bringing the ‘Belfast Banana’ back to life in its on-site garden display, the building will also act as a museum, events and commercial space and this Saturday (Oct 23), between 10am and 6pm, visitors will, for the first time, be given a unique behind-the-scenes peek inside – with Portview tenants putting on displays of mushroom growing, cheese making and record collecting.

“We can’t wait to finally peel back the doors of ‘Banana Block’ and give visitors a first look inside,” said Portview Trade Centre Chairman Brendan Mackin.

“Foodies should visit the folks at the Lunch Box Café who are experienced in everything from butchering to baking and growing to grilling – while history buffs should explore the What’s The Story gallery space which is filled with displays of artwork, stories and soundscapes, expressing unique perspectives on the past, present and future.”

The Portview concept development, including ‘Banana Block’, is being taken forward by Belfast-based Urban Scale Interventions (USI) and a team of local and international consultants, including existing on-site tenants.

Ralf Alwani, Partner at USI, is looking forward to sampling a home-grown banana beer.

“A must-see is the tropical banana plant-filled greenhouse, which includes an agri-tech living museum and an archive of mill stories,” said Ralf.

“The bananas grown here will provide the key ingredient to a banana beer developed by Portview tenant Boundary Brewing, a co-operative brewery owned by its members and just one of the growing number of artisan producers and creative entrepreneurs who now call Portview their home,” he added.

The ‘Banana Block’ opening celebrations will continue over the Hallowe’en weekend with the Hallowe’en Weekender, which includes an East Bloc Bazaar on Saturday October 30 from 9am to 5pm, a Big Hallowe’en Party for adults on Saturday evening from 10pm to 2am, and a Top Banana’ fancy dress parade on Sunday October 31 from 9am to 5pm.

“We are delighted to announce the opening of the ‘Banana Block’ and help breathe new life into this part of East Belfast,” said USI Head of Programming, Claire Hall.

“We hope everyone comes along to ‘Banana Block’ over the next two weekends and says hello to us – we’re a great bunch!”

‘Banana Block’ has been supported by a development grant from Tourism Northern Ireland and a partnership with National Museums Northern Ireland who have supported heritage interpretation and engagement.

Keep your eyes peeled for more information by searching @bananablockbelfast on Instagram or visiting