Linenopolis was a “pop-up” visitor experience and store, which traded from Bedford House between August and December 2018. The concept was initiated and funded by the Linen Quarter BID, in partnership with the Linen Biennale, a celebration of the social, cultural and economic impact of Linen that is held every two years.
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, officially opened the attraction, and Ulster Estates generously facilitated rent free use of the space.
The aim of the project was to tell the story of Belfast’s historic Linen Quarter, using the prism of the contemporary linen industry. The experience included story boards, images and artefacts highlighting the city’s linen heritage, accompanied by 33 Irish linen entrepreneurs including Belfast makers such as Deborah Toner, Bricolage, and Flax Fox, displaying their artisan wares.
Linen played a central role in the Belfast Story; bringing huge wealth and employment, driving rapid population growth, and directly contributing to Queen Victoria awarding Belfast city status in 1888. By the second half of the 19th century, Belfast boasted the largest linen industry in the world; and many of the beautiful red brick buildings in the Linen Quarter – now being comprehensively regenerated – were built to house the offices and warehouses of the trade. Other notable features, such as the Ulster Hall and Belfast City Hall itself, were primarily built from the wealth generated by Linen.
The short-term impact of the project was to retell the story of the area and provide an interesting experience for tourists; while also supporting entrepreneurship and the creative arts. The wider aim is to initiate a longer term rebrand of the Linen Quarter, which will position it as one of the must-see destinations in the city.
Although the store is now closed, our hope is that we can find a more permanent home for the Linenopolis concept, and that this will continue to build momentum in the regeneration of this historic area.