At the rectory beside St Mar’s Church in Dundela in East Belfast, you can see the face of a lion on the door knocker.
This is where the young Jack Lewis, CS Lewis of the 2m book sales a year to you and I, encountered his lion on a daily basis exactly positioned at little boy eyeline when he came to rap on the door.
The growing number of Lewis aficionados who come to footstep the writer’s Belfast childhood can find a lot more to inspire them.
The lamp in the entrance hall to Campbell College became a major landmark in north east Narnia. The names of many places around were transposed into his books.
But turning CS Lewis into tourism cash is a little more complicated than at first sight
With unbounded enthusiasm East Belfast tourism partnership printed 10,000 leaflets promoting the CS Lewis trail.
The enthusiasm should be well founded. Lewis’s books still sell 2m copies a year. The 1990s films ignited interest in his world.
But fewer than a day’s daily visitation at the nearby titanic centre a few dozen have taken up the trail so far.
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The church where his grandfather was rector has a beautiful Michael Healy window dedicated by Lewis to his parents in the 1930s, but it is not open most of the time.
His first childhood home is demolished, now Dundela flats festooned in paramilitary flags. The road outside is busier than when his childhood dog Jack was knocked over, one of the first dogs in Ireland to die on the road. Clive wanted to be known as Jack afterwards in hi dog’s memory and his parents agreed.
His second childhood home Little Lea is where he and his siblings went to play in the attic and where the name Narnia was inspired by one of their board games. It is still a private house, inaccessible to tourists, even though there is a certain allure in the fact that you must peep through the gate to see where the great man got his inspiration.
At least it has been saved the fate of nearby Red Hall, the home of his literary cousin Austin Greeves, where the adult CS Lewis stayed and wrote Pilgrim’s Regress. It was demolished in 2003 despite protestations from conservationists, and now the site lies derelict, a vacant lot.
There are two CS Lewis graffiti wall murals, one bearing a better likeness than the other, they are asked lost among the Street Art of the troubles. In the little streets around the shipyard the murals depict passed away paramilitaries and the cause of Ulster identity. Tourists find them way more interesting.
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All that may be about to change. East Belfast has a CS Lewis festival with innovative and creative tour opportunities.
In an inescapable irony, the East Belfast command headquarters of the UDA is now the headquarters of East Belfast Visitor centre, the room from where Jim gray planned his campaigns now filled with talk of the Comber greenway, (with new greenways to be extended to the Connswater, Loop and Knock rivers), Sam Thompson bridge’s 100,000 crossing since April, the Let’s twist again sculpture, the urban meadows, the yardmen, sky panels, Titanic street art, the memory chair and the hollow where the three rivers meet. Terrorism to tourism in one easy bound.
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Eoghan Corry was hosted by Belfast CVB. Whose information service on visit-belfast.com provides maps, lists of hotels and accommodation, information on events, things to do, places to eat and drink.
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