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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Give Maryport a full time Titanic attraction

Last week I returned to my home city of Belfast, where a huge Titanic complex has just opened.

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Keeping the link alive: Cliff Ismay, a distant relative of White Star chief Bruce Ismay, who survived the Titanic disaster, has organised the exhibition in Maryport

My plan had been to visit it, but the queues were so long that if I’d joined the end of one I’d only just be getting in now.

So I decided to give it a miss and try again on my next trip home, when the excitement and crowds have dwindled.

There’s plenty of time, as it’s going to be permanent fixture of the city.

Another town with a strong historic connection to the world’s greatest maritime disaster is Maryport.

Unfortunately there isn’t plenty of time to see its Titanic exhibition, at the Wave Centre, as it is due to run only until May 13.

But doesn’t Maryport deserve a permanent commemoration too?

The new attraction in Belfast will need hundreds of thousands of visitors every year just to break even, but the spin-off benefits – with money spent and jobs created in hotels, shops, pubs and restaurants – ought to be immense.

Visitors have come from all over the country, in numbers far higher than expected, to see Maryport’s exhibition.

Perhaps Allerdale Council could consider the spin-off benefits that a permanent exhibition could bring to north-west Cumbria. Of course some will argue that Belfast needs to invest in visitor attractions more than Cumbria does.

My home town has never exactly been overrun with tourists but there has never been any shortage of them here.

And yes, Cumbria is already endowed with lakes, fells, Hadrian’s Wall and Beatrix Potter.

But that’s no reason not to try to attract more.

People have been fascinated by the Titanic ever since it sank, not just in its centenary year.

James Cameron’s film based on the disaster was first released 15 years ago, but raked in $1.8billion – making it the world’s highest-grossing film ever at the time. So there’s evidently money in it.

Is it right to make money out of a tragedy?

More than 1,500 lives were lost on April 1, 1912. But that will be a century ago on Sunday, and some people are eagerly gathering the silver lining.

There’s nothing wrong with Maryport getting its share.

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