When Is a Park More Than a Park? Rethinking the Role of Parks as “Shared Space” in Post-Conflict Belfast
With the signing of the Belfast Agreement, Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK) entered a new phase of urban development. Moving away from notions of division, Belfast City Council envisaged an inclusive and accessible city. Over a 20-year period, there have been significant changes in Belfast’s physical, socio-cultural, and political structure, reframing the city as a post-conflict space. However, there has been limited analysis of the role of parks in this process. This paper examines perceptions of parks, asking whether the promotion of a “shared spaces” policy aligns with local use. Through a mixed-methods approach, park users were surveyed to reflect on the meanings of parks in the city. We argue that although residual interpretations associated with historical socio-cultural divisions remain, parks are predominately multi-community amenities. The analysis illustrates that although destination parks attract greater patronage, there is visible clustering around ‘anchor’ sites at the local scale, especially in neighbourhoods with significant Catholic or Protestant identities.