Hodor actor reveals he witnessed nightclub shooting

time:2023-06-02 17:02:19source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center4

Actor Kristian Nairn has spoken for the first time about witnessing the fatal shooting of a policeman in a gay nightclub.

Darren Bradshaw, 24, was gunned down in Belfast's Parliament bar in May 1997 - the city's only LGBT venue at the time.

Kristian, known to millions as Game of Thrones' Hodor, was 21 and among hundreds of horrified onlookers.

The killing, which remains unsolved, sent shockwaves through the city's gay community.

Homophobia was prevalent in Northern Ireland in the 1990s - there were few legal protections and negative social attitudes were common.

The Parliament was Belfast's only gay bar when it opened in 1994. The city had held its first pride parade just three years earlier.

Kristian, now 47, told the BBC's Blood on the Dance Floor podcast that, for young people like him, The Parliament was the place to be.

"It was an amazing place, there was nowhere else like it," he says.

"We were there every Saturday - at one stage every night of the week.

"You'd walk into the bar downstairs and it'd be absolutely rammed."

Hundreds of people would flood into the venue each weekend and Kristian, who is famously tall at 6ft 10in (208cm), would have stood out.

But he remembers The Parliament as a place where everyone had something in common.

"These are people who've been repressed their entire lives," he says.

"All of a sudden you have a safe space where everyone's into the same stuff, it's a laugh and you've got a bit of alcohol there.

"It was immensely important - I think it's laid the grounds for what's come since."

The night of the shooting - a Friday - started just like any other and Kristian remembers sitting near The Parliament's front door with his friends.

"We hadn't been there long, we'd probably had our first drink," he says.

"We were sat down just having a bit of a laugh."

Kristian says he'd noticed Darren Bradshaw - a regular at the venue - standing at the bar.

That normality was interrupted when a man entered the room sporting a shoddy disguise of a "weirdly drawn-on beard".

"Me and my friends were just like 'look at the state of him'," says Kristian.

"He was nervous-looking, he was definitely looking for someone."

The man marched up to Darren and shot him in the back three times at close range - Kristian recalls a "very loud bang-bang-bang".

"The music carried on for a second before it came down - I remember a girl stood at the bar covered in blood," he says.

"This guy just legged it out, sort of kicked the doors open.

"I made eye contact with him, I think we all made eye contact with him as he was coming out.

"It happened so fast. It was just like stunned silence, just like a bomb had gone off."

The Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for Darren's murder but no-one has ever been convicted.

Police believe his killing was carefully planned - a burnt-out getaway car was found after the shooting - and there have been multiple arrests.

Those three gunshots had a ripple effect on Belfast's gay scene and the people who were present that night.

Staff quit the venue, and fearful punters stayed away.

News of the shooting, and the police investigation that followed, forced many people to reveal their sexuality to their previously unaware families.

Kristian was one of them.

"I went home and my mum knew I was gay and that was fine - my mum's always been amazing," he says.

"I told my grandfather I'd been in a shooting and he was like 'I'm glad you're okay' and all that.

"But he was quite a gossipy man in his time and he was around telling his old farmer friends.

"One of them had obviously been watching the news and he was like 'that was a gay bar'.

"And that was how my grandfather found out I was gay, and he threw me out of the house."

But despite his experience and the reaction to it, Kristian went on to DJ in Belfast's gay scene before he became an actor.

He even did a stint as a drag queen, and has spoken in interviews about refusing to shy away from his sexuality.

His most recent role is in HBO's pirate-themed comedy Our Flag Means Death - which has been praised for its LGBT representation.

You can hear the full story on the Blood on the Dance Floor podcast on BBC Sounds.

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