Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival: Country comes to the city

Country music star Nanci Griffith brought some Nashville glamour to the lives of Belfast schoolchildren yesterday afternoon.

The assembly hall at Springhill Primary School on the Ballygomartin Road hosted a visit from the renowned singer.

She star is in town for the Belfast Nashville Songwriters festival.

The visit to the school was part of the Pan Arts programme, a cross-community project involving pupils from Springhill and Mercy Primary School, Ardoyne.

Primary seven teacher at Springhill Primary School, Derek Whitcroft, said that while most primary six and seven pupils don’t know much about country music, they all enjoyed the visit.

He said: “The afternoon with Nanci was part of an ongoing programme which our Primary 7 pupils are taking part in, along with the P6 pupils of Mercy Primary School.

“The programme lets the children look at not just their own culture, but also the culture of others.

“Nanci came here and entertained the children with her music and in return the children sang ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ for her, which she really seemed to enjoy.

“She talked with the children really well and they all looked like they were having a really good time.

“She seemed very impressed by what the children were telling her, and while they may know more about the music of Lady GaGa, they enjoyed the whole afternoon immensely.”

Griffith has taken part in the Pan Arts programme since its inception and consistently performed in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles, even writing about the conflict here in her songs.

Meanwhile, the director of the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival Colin Magee spoke yesterday about the range of events at the festival, now in its sixth year.

Among the stars are some artists who are not usually associated with the country music style.

“The festival is huge this year and before it closes on Sunday afternoon the city will host a total of 42 events,” explained Mr Magee.

“We have the cream of songwriters here, all willing to share their knowledge and talent with local songwriters who will have the opportunity to improve on their own skills by just listening to people like Jason Blume, Midge Ure and, of course, Nanci Griffith.

“I can accept that people may be surprised to see the likes of Midge Ure taking part, but we made the decision to make it about songwriting.

“That is why you have someone like Jason Blume.

“Although he is from Nashville, he has written pop hits for the likes of Britney Spears.”

Colin credits Nanci with the mounting success the festival is enjoying.

He added: “Nanci has been taking part in the festival now for four years and it is her endorsement of the festival that has encouraged others to follow her footsteps.

“She is no stranger to these shores and is extremely committed to Northern Ireland, in particular the cross-community work that it being done.

“While some artists come here for one night, Nanci is here for a full week and is taking part in so many events.” The festival kicked off yesterday with a host of events and will continue until Sunday afternoon.

It will closed on Sunday with two birthday bashes, at Madison Hotel on Botanic Ave and The Kings Head on the Lisburn Road.

A full list of the events taking place can be found on the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival website.

THURSDAY: Nanci Griffith ‘In The Round’ concert, Empire Music Hall, 7.30pm (£22). The Lost Brothers in Concert, Black Box, 8pm (£10). Carlene Carter ‘In The Round’, King’s Head, 8pm (£18).

FRIDAY: Ralph McTell, May Street Church, 7.30pm (£15). Mick Hanly In Concert, Madisons Hotel Avenue Bar, 8pm (£10). Mundy In Concert, Empire, 8pm (£12).

SATURDAY: Avalon Guitars Presents Tom Baxter and Special Guests, Ulster Hall, 8pm (£15). Midge Ure In Concert, Empire Music Hall, 8pm (£15). Nanci Griffith In Concert, May Street Church, 7.30pm (£22).

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