On the 8th November 2021, Belfast was awarded the coveted City of Music status by UNESCO celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage and recognising the importance of music to its future.
That very night I happened to be in Belfast for the premiere of two of my works at a special Ulster Orchestra and BBC celebration concert entitled Fanfare for The Makers. As news of the new UNESCO status for Belfast spread around the Ulster Hall that night, you could feel the excitement in the air, or maybe that was just my pre-concert nerves.
There is incredible musical talent in Northern Ireland. I was lucky enough to attend the City of Belfast School of Music in my teens, where my passion for music was truly nurtured setting me on the right path to my current career. While I was there, I met musicians from every part of the city, there were no walls or boundaries, we all had one thing in common, we simply wanted to make music together.
I would like to praise the initiative shown by Belfast City Council in applying for this UNESCO status and its official Belfast Music patrons Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel who supported and committed to the delivery of Belfast’s bid as part of the Steering Committee.
As Gary Lightbody put it: “Music is woven into the DNA of Belfast. We have so many incredible bands and artists – and more every single year. I’ve watched in these last 25 years of relative peace the music scene grow and then thrive and now burst at the seams with fearless and limitless talent.”
Over the next few years Belfast City Council plan to deliver a series of high-profile music events, which aim to build its infrastructure to future support music creators and will see music woven into public spaces and places to ensure the power and benefits of music can be felt by all who live, work in or visit the city.
This is music to my ears, I’ve seen Northern Ireland ride the wave of success with production companies from around the world choosing our stunning locations to shoot their films and TV dramas, supported by NI Screen and Invest NI. Let’s hope that screen composers in Belfast can look forward to similar global recognition on the back of the city’s prestigious UNESCO Music status.
The Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast is a huge resource for musicians which should thrive over the coming years as it helps more musicians and creatives further their careers in music. It would be amazing to see more specialist music courses emerge to cater to the growing numbers of young people seeking careers in the music industry.
As composer Hannah Peel said: “Belfast is an alive, vibrant and musically powerful city. Now is the time to celebrate those that are making a difference in music, in culture. As well as artists like Van Morrison, there is female empowered punk, new wave, Brit nominated EDM, jazz and an abundance of classical music that runs through the veins of this city and yet to the wider world, it is all unheard of, underground, eclipsed by its past, but still supplying a pulse and a vibrancy that needs to be lauded for the future.”
With a year of culture planned for the city in 2024, let’s look forward to seeing more live performances in the city by artists and composers showcasing the breath of talent across all styles of music from my hometown. I hope to see you on stage there soon.