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2019 marks the fifty-year anniversary of the beginning of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. To coincide with the occasion, the BBC have commissioned a new series that will air next year. Having grown up in Belfast I am honoured to have been asked to compose the music for the series.

The Belfast I grew up in was one of checkpoints, security searches and bomb warnings. But it was also an incredible city of inspiration, and my tutors at the City of Belfast School of Music fed my soul musically. In my teens, making music was my passion and among other things I had a saxophone quartet, and played alto saxophone.

We did our own arrangements and would busk in the city centre at weekends to earn a bit of extra cash, and would subsequently get asked to play at weddings, festivals and restaurant openings. It funded new instruments for me, and made me think that making an income from music was a possibility.

One day the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Jim Prior, was in the city centre on an official walk about and stopped and put some money into our open saxophone case.

Another time in the mid 80s we made the national press in an article about Belfast City Centre and the thriving community.

Saxophone Madness busking in Belfast City Centre 1984 (from left: Sheridan Tongue, Jonny Halton, Drew Leckie, Brian) – Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.
Now when I return to Belfast it is with pride and wonder. Belfast is a changed city: a vibrant exciting hub with many studios and media companies. Not to mention the warm Northern Irish hospitality and craic!
Working on the new series has given me the opportunity to come back to Belfast on a regular basis and I look forward to sharing more about the project as it develops.