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St Patrick’s Day Live From Sailortown Hailed A Success

The performances broadcasted live from St Joseph’s across two stages with all the acts introduced by U105 presenter and DJ, Johnny Hero.

U105 presenter and today’s host Johnny Hero with Sailortown Regeneration project manager Terry McKeon at St Patrick's Day Live from Sailortown Credit: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

St Joseph’s Chapel in Sailortown Belfast came alive for St Patrick’s Day yesterday from 2pm celebrating cultural and historical heritage of the historic area of the city.

After years of restoration St Joseph’s Chapel was transformed to a community hub that hosted the event on March 17 from 2pm to 9pm.

Project manager for Sailortown Regeneration, Terry McKeown said music, dancing, storytelling and art were all featured for the landmark occasion for Sailortown.

Stellar Line-up

“We are delighted to have had such a stellar line-up,” Terry said. 

“The years of campaigning and hard work to open St Joseph’s deserve to be celebrated and the event was a packed day that had audiences joining us from all over the world including America, Canada, Italy and Australia.”

U105 presenter and today’s host Johnny Hero with Sailortown Regeneration project manager Terry McKeon at St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown. Credit: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

The performances broadcasted live from St Joseph’s across two stages with all the acts introduced by U105 presenter and DJ, Johnny Hero.

Opening the day was Dál Riada Folk, a three-piece band who brought their selection of Irish folk songs, Irish and Scottish reels and jigs and modern folk.

Dal Riada playing St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown. Credit: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

Seamus Lavery of Dalriada Folk said: “Although I was not born in Sailortown I have a long association with St Joseph’s through Conradh na Gaelidhge. 

“In more recent times I have been a supporter of the Save St Joseph’s campaign, playing with the band at fundraisers and a few years ago we played in the church when it was reopened.”

Closing the proceedings was The Lee Hedley Band, whose inspired blues sets have delighted audiences across Europe, the States and North Africa for more than a quarter of a century and light up Sailortown.

Singer songwriters Amanda St John and Anthony Toner were among the line up.

Welcoming to Musicians

Anthony, who released his song Sailortown in 2008, added: “St Joseph’s is a beautiful building, the atmosphere of churches is always welcoming to musicians, I think – there’s a sense of the music rising up into the rafters that you don’t get in more traditional venues. 

“The history of that part of the city adds another layer of importance to the place, and the exciting plans for its regeneration make it feel multi-layered, the past and the future of Sailortown collide right here, in this space, right now.

“It’s a pleasure to have been part of such a wonderful bill of musicians and dancers and artists, to also see films included in the line up as well.”

Singer songwriter Amanda St John playing St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown Credit: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

Amanda added: “The gig was amazing. I was really missing proper gigs so much. It’s exciting to have full stage sound and lighting set up and to be on the bill with so many other local talents.”

A feature during the day was the presentation of an NVTV film on Sailortown, recounting the history, and the battles to win the lease when the church was deconsecrated through to the ongoing work.

Ludwig O’Neill playing St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown Credit: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

Singer songwriter, Ludwig O’Neill, is no stranger to Sailortown having campaigned to keep the Rotterdam and Pat’s Bar from development, will bring his dark, realistic folk and blues tunes to the party.

He said: “I am very pleased to have been included in this St Patrick’s Day event almost a year since I played there before. 

“Sailortown is in my blood, it’s the heartbeat of North Belfast and over the years has been Belfast’s conduit to the rest of the world. St Joseph’s chapel has long been the spiritual hub of that area.”

This year’s St Patrick’s Day event was being funded by Intercom, The Executive Office and The Community Relations Council.

Big Turning Point

Terry said it’s a big turning point in the history of the chapel.

She added: “It’s about bringing people back to showcase the creative talent that’s in Belfast and celebrating the transformation of the Chapel on the quays to a community hub.”

Also on the bill was musician and songwriter Hugh Jordan who is best known for his hit Road to Donegal about returning Irish-immigrants.

Award winning dancer and musician Edel Ní Churraoin performed with the Sean Nos Dancers including a solo from Meabh Muir.

Other acts who appeared included The String Ninjas, The Adventures, the Ferris School of Irish Dancers, Patrick Ryan, Seamus McPeak and Paul Dean.

St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown was streamed live on a variety of social media platforms and available for replay on the Sailortown Regeneration Facebook page or at sailortownregeneration.com.

Belfast City

Spectacular Ogham Grove Opens Tonight In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarters Writers’ Square will tonight (September 17) be transformed into a spectacular installation from the creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.

From 6pm tonight through until Sunday evening visitors can experience an interactive celebration of the ancient druidic language, with massive representations of trees, sounds and lighting weaving a path of learning about the language and the chance to win prizes.

Ogham Grove replaces the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events.

Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken said visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.

Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.

Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

The brains behind the concept include creative lead Gawain Morrison, artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.

Gawain Morrison said that the concept of The Ogham Grove “draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree alphabet which dives deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined”. 

This year, as well as experiencing The Ogham Grove itself, visitors will be able to take part in an accompanying interactive experience that will lead them through the Cathedral Quarter, and also take them on a journey of personal discovery.

According to Gawain the immersive nature inspired trail and competition will mean visitors can take something special away from the experience.

“For somebody who will be coming to this, the several points of access means it is going to be a very experiential and sensory experience,” he explained. 

“I hope that as visitors walk around whether it’s in the day or night, that they will take something away from it.”

Across the Cathedral Quarter area, there will be five zones each representing one of the five families of the Ogham alphabet.

To be eligible to win a prize, participants must find and scan a QR code found on one of the trail’s bespoke wooden plaques and take note of the lines of poetry displayed.

Prizes to be won include vouchers for restaurants, gift tokens to purchase your own pieces of art and tickets to shows coming up in the Cathedral Quarter and will be announced at the end of the Culture Night weekend.

This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.

To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media

Issued by Excalibur Press on behalf of CNB Presents: The Ogham Grove 

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The Arts

£5m Fund to Retain Skills in the Creative Sector

A £5million fund to prevent the loss of the talent and expertise of individuals and freelancers working in the creative sector has been launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme, which opens at noon today, will provide a grant of up to £2,000 per individual eligible application including DJs, artists, performers, sound and lighting technicians, writers, events managers and many other professionals who have been impacted as a result of the public health restrictions on the creative sector.

There is evidence that the creative sectors rely heavily on self-employed and freelance individuals and that many have already left the sectors because of the pandemic, with those remaining facing jobs vulnerability and unaffordable costs relating to re-establishing their creative practice.

Minister Hargey said: “I have listened to the recommendations of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce, and I have also engaged with the sector. As a result I am today launching a support scheme to provide grants to individuals to encourage them to remain in the creative arts sector.

“The culture, languages, arts and heritage sectors have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 restrictions as they rely heavily on people’s ability to get together which is why the Executive has provided £13million in 2021/2022 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

“There is a risk that self-employed and freelance individuals may be forced to leave the creative sectors as a result of the pandemic. As the sectors rely heavily on individuals, this could destabilise the sector and the benefits it delivers including social, economic and wellbeing. This new £5m funding scheme aims to prevent loss of sectoral skills for self-employed and freelance individuals and safeguard the sector for the future.

“This fund will help with costs of reactivating, maintaining and enhancing their creative trade, vocation or profession. It is designed to prevent individuals, and their talent and expertise, from leaving the creative economy; and help them re-establish their contribution to the important benefits these sectors deliver.”

Welcoming the funding, chair of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce Rotha Johnston said:  “Freelancers and the self-employed are critical to the recovery and sustainability of the creative and cultural sectors as a result of the impacts of Covid-19. Many have been deprived the opportunity to use their skills, perform or practice their art in the last 18 months. The Taskforce is of the unanimous view that support for individuals is essential to protect the viability of the sectors going forward. The Taskforce’s findings and recommendations have been developed following extensive engagement with people from across the sectors and our conclusion is that this public investment in culture, arts and heritage will deliver significant benefits to individuals, society and the economy in the short, medium and long term”.

The fund, co-designed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) with the Department for Communities, will be delivered by the Arts Council. For information on how to apply including eligibility criteria please visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/for-individuals

D/deaf and disabled artists will be supported via a separate award via ACNI to the University of Atypical who regularly support this particular cohort, to ensure that artists with particular needs are appropriately supported through the application process.

The scheme is open until 12 noon, 6 October, 2021.

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