Barbed Wire Love: Artists, Filmmakers and their North of Ireland Troubles

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Hush-A-Bye Baby, dir. by Margo Harkin

Fifty-three years since the commencement of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, Barbed Wire Love presents intimate tales from those who stayed, those who left and those who passed through. Sisters and brothers, those who danced at raves, those who had good intentions and those who did not. Chance encounters, intimate first-person cinema and the unreliability of history and biography create space for wry humour and tiny ecstasies.

Barbed Wire Love gleefully steals its title from a 1979 Stiff Little Fingers song... “I met you in No Man’s Land, Across the wire we were holding hands, Hearts a-bubble in the rubble, It was love at bomb site.” The lyrics are well worn and slightly grubby but there’s a sincerity in their double entendre and playful deconstruction of an abjectness that the North of Ireland has come to be represented by.

Like the artists and filmmakers whose work we’re so honoured to present, we’re all caught up and completely entangled in that Barbed Wire Love. There’s no place like home. And though Barbed Wire Love is neither a 1980s arena rock lament nor a sticky club floor banger, we wish to acknowledge our pleasure in having this collective opportunity to cry on the dance floor together. In doing so, maybe we can scramble over limits set by given positions or identities we are close to or have experienced ourselves. 

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Trouble, dir. by Mariah Garnett

As well as Stiff Little Fingers we’d like to acknowledge a debt to Anna Burns’ masterful novel Milkman, particularly its Somebody McSomebodies and beyond-the-pales. Through the films of Barbed Wire Love we’re made welcome behind closed doors, ushered into domestic spaces and trusted with the minutiae of sometimes difficult relationships. Rather than upholding grand narratives or a zero-sum teleological history these films suggest multi-layered and sometimes ambivalent versions of events that seem honest to us. They demolish what we think we knew to represent lived experiences, whether these are working class, rural ones or suburban ones.

Barbed Wire Love is not in any sense a panorama of artists’ and independent film production in the North of Ireland but it offers a myriad of productive jumping off points. With clear glimpses into, around and beyond acts of violence proximal and peripheral to the North of Ireland, these films begin to describe a contested place and its social politics. Crossing genders, cruising lock-ins; moving from Tyrone to Vienna to Derry to Los Angeles and returning home to the cul-de-sacs of Eden, Co. Antrim, Barbed Wire Love creates new possibilities for connection.

Myrid Carten and Peter Taylor

Myrid Carten (Derry, 1991) is an artist and filmmaker

Peter Taylor (Belfast, 1974) is a film curator and the Director of Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

A discussion between Peter, Myrid and some of the featured filmmakers, led by writer and curator Sara Greavu, is available on GSFF’s podcast, produced by Halina Rifai

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