Wee Muckers - Youth of Belfast
Toby has been documenting the daily life of teenagers in British working-class communities for more than a decade. After the Brexit referendum he focused this work on Belfast in Northern Ireland. There was a serious concern that Brexit would threaten the Peace Agreement of 1998 that ended the armed conflict between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists who live in homogeneous neighbourhoods that are divided by walls till today.
Old conflicts may recur, compromising the youth’s future prospects on both communities. Nevertheless, being underage, most teenagers were not allowed to vote in the referendum. Problems they struggle with are similar – no matter which side of the “Peace Walls” they live on. And whatever the effects of Brexit in the long run will be, it is very likely that they will especially affect the young people from both communities. The images of the project “Wee Muckers – Youth of Belfast“ were photographed in six different Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods.
The photo essay depicts the ubiquity of unemployment, drug crime and violence afflicting Belfast’s youth providing an intimate and immediate insight into the daily lives of a whole generation. This is an on-going longterm project. The idea is to show that these two communities in Belfast who seem to have irreconcilable differences, are more similar than they’d both like to admit. While they still stick to their own symbols of identity and tradition, they wear the same clothes, have the same haircuts, listen to the same music, drink the same beer, take the same drugs and often the same worries such as violence, unemployment, social discrimination and therefore, lack of prospects.
For Toby, the work is deeply linked to questions that Belfast-born writer Paul McVeigh speaks of.
“Are you born or do you become your nationality? Is it something from which you can’t escape and, if so, is nationality a kind of prison?”