Imagine a place of freedom and expression for young people, a place to eat at a reasonable price, a place to create art and play music. An alternative space for anyone who didn’t find the mainstream appealing.
Welcome to Giros. Rediscover the A Centre, Warzine and Just Books. Rediscover a disparate group of young people who got together in the time of Thatcher and urged others not to ‘accept their lot in life’. A time when strands of the punk movement, which flourished throughout 1980s Belfast, began to build resources and non-sectarian shared space in Belfast city centre.
‘I just remember a real lack of opportunity, I remember Belfast as being very dead. I remember bombs, bullets and sectarianism and very little vision of a future.’ Danny Martin
‘In 1978 I discovered punk bands like the ‘Pistols’ and the ‘Clash’. I was living in the New Lodge area. There were not a lot of opportunities for creativity’. Petesy Burns
‘I went to an upper class girls grammar school and never felt particularly comfortable there, nothing really clicked with me’. Hilary Midgely.
The times were grim, the Hunger Strikes a vivid memory, the city was dead at night, all locked up.
‘In the mid eighties there weren’t that many spaces in the city that you could go to. I think Giros was important. It was a space were you left any of the baggage that you had grown up with at the door’. Kate Wimpress
Giros was first established next to the Centre for the Unemployed in Donegall Street and then moved to Upper Donegall Street. It attracted a diverse group of people to its café from unemployed young people, schoolchildren, solicitors and art students. A recording studio was installed nearby; giving opportunities for bands to record, bands that wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity to do so. It became a place for campaigns and benefit gigs, a place were fanzines could be published.
It was the only place of its kind in Belfast.
‘I couldn’t believe we were all so young and on the dole and here we were with all this professional screen printing equipment and we’re producing posters and t-shirts, it was very exciting’. Sheena Bleakney
The Giros experiment lasted 17 years and contributed to building the foundations of the music industry in Northern Ireland.
‘Giros, most definitely that whole era shaped me as the person I always felt I probably was, but could never find.’ Hilary Midgely
‘It brought me out from what I saw as no future to having something that was visionary and keeps me motivated to this day’. Danny Martin
‘It gave me a community and a sense of family and it made me realise that you can do things’. Kate Wimpress
‘I suppose if I had to use one word to sum up what it meant to me personally it would be friendship’. Sheena Bleakney
‘The light getting turned on in peoples lives about other possibilities is the legacy as far as I’m concerned’. Petesy Burns