Orpheus Co-Op

Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Demolished 2015

The Disappointed Tourist: Orpheus Co-Op, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

I have so many happy memories of the Co-Op as a child. I remember the bounce of the floor as we walked to a table for tea. The floor was sprung for dancing, so posh & unique. I looked around full of wonder at the grand interior, my mother always got dressed up to go to town shopping on a Saturday. Such fond memories. Patricia V.

Built in 1932, the Orpheus Co-Op was the headquarters of Belfast’s largest department store, the Belfast Co-Operative Society. The Co-Operative Society ran an innovative share scheme, whereby regular customers received a dividend for their purchases. The building was also notable for its restaurant and ballroom where shoppers could enjoy afternoon tea or dance to popular bands. After the Co-op closed its doors, the building was acquired by Ulster University and used as studio space for art students. Despite efforts to secure listed status for the building, the building was demolished in 2015 to make way for an expansion of the Ulster University campus. The painting is based on an uncredited photograph.