A Silent War - Blackout (B.S.L.)



Belfast, University of Atypical





03min 40sec







Northern Ireland Screen's Digital Film Archive


Hands That Sign, Paula Clarke, Ross Thompson

Rights Holder

Northern Ireland Screen, Ross Thompson

It is illegal to download, copy, print or otherwise utilise in any other form this material, without written consent from the copyright holder.


Blackout by Ross Thompson, written in Bangor during 2020 Lockdown

An eerie sort of shutdown, a form of solar eclipse 
that brings to mind parental stories concerning the Blitz:
how, at the sound of an ululating klaxon, they hurried
to the cramped and dank space beneath the stairs, where they worried
that the sky would fall in an avalanche of planks and bricks.

You were for so long petrified of being in the dark:
plagued by nightmares of werewolves, atomic bombs, snakes and sharks,
and that slow vision of your hometown bleached pale of colour
where families and neighbours did not speak to each other,
ring-fenced by silence. No birdsong. No sharing of the heart’s 

longing for reciprocal warmth. Petals shrinking on flowers.
A faulty circuit board. Lights snapping shut during a power 
cut. And then, that dream actualised, made flesh: cafés, pools, 
cinemas dark as country ditches; hair salons, parks, schools
empty as cracked pitchers; churches, like unheard signal towers,

broadcasting to vacant stations; bookstores and restaurants
a grim tapestry of roller shutters and locked shopfronts.
Fetching necessary groceries involved a sortie 
of precision planning: a trench run through starless quarries 
where the scent of danger leapt from every surface. Once

you returned, your uniform had to be burned; your rank, name
and raid redacted. You were not laid like cards on a game 
table nor arranged like beads in a kinetic cradle 
but jettisoned like pearls from a broken string, unable 
to tether to the thing that held us before we became
lost in wherever here is… tundra, no man’s land, unclaimed 
ground, ash heap, ghost parade of candles with wavering flames.


Blackout by Ross Thompson
BSL translation and performance by Paula Clarke
Filmed in University of Atypical by Stuart Calvin
A Silent War Creative Producers: Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell & Ann Donnelly
Funded by the Department for Communities through Northern Ireland Screen



Please scroll to review and accept our terms and conditions (last updated on ) before viewing the moving images content.

To remember your terms and conditions acceptance, you can register as a site member or allow cookies on your browser.