Israel Kessler: Death at Tomb St
For the month of November the face of Death will loom out from two adjoining billboards over the city streets at the corner of Corporation St and Dunbar link. Underneath the towering Royal Mail building we see John Costello, a casual mail worker, as Death manifest in the form of a clown.
‘Death at Tomb St.’ is a photographic series from an original event at the National Returns Centre, the dead letter office for the United Kingdom, in the Royal Mail Tomb St depot in Belfast.
It gives expression to the famously black humour of the Belfast people and of the low-paid production line worker.
There will be an artist talk in connection with the project at the Golden Thread Gallery from 1-2pm on20 Thursday November.
Closing ceremony and reading, with hot soup, at The Great Pyramid, Dunbar Link, from 5-7pm on Saturday 29 November.
Credits: IMPRESARIO: ISRAEL KESSLER • DEATH: JOHN COSTELLO • CAMERA: JORDAN HUTCHINGS • SPIRIT MAGISTRATE: IAN JOHNSTONE
The National Returns Centre, the dead letter office for the United Kingdom, is at the Tomb St depot in Belfast.
Here Death appears as a clown one afternoon in early Spring, clothed in the form of John Costello, a casual mail-worker.
The overtime shift has begun. Workers are culling mail, opening and sorting dead letters and packets.
“addressee gone away”
“not called for”
“no such address”
Death appears amongst them unannounced, and they give him an affectionate slegging.
Death takes it in good form, and gives as good as he gets.
Humour is a grinning skull presiding over the world of work, without which each shift can be like a slow burial, or a forty-eight hour burial over seven days, and so on into the years and decades ahead.
Humour is the workers’ presiding daemon, especially for team-workers doing hard-graft, high-volume, production line work; especially for machine-workers on low pay.
Belfast folk are famous for their sense of humour, often at the dark end of the scale. The spirit of that darkly-humorous Belfast worker has his star-turn in the human drama, as Death, then takes his curtain-call at Tomb St.
Belfast City Centre