Belfast Telegraph

1994 IRA ceasefire: Even amidst the bullets and bombs, Belfast still knew how to throw a party

By Maureen Coleman

It's over - two words that will always define 1994. On August 31 that year the IRA announced "a complete cessation of military operations", followed two months later by a loyalist ceasefire.

For those of us who grew up through the Troubles, the news meant no more nightly terrors of tit-for-tat murders, no more avoiding certain areas where our names would give us away, no more anxious parents waiting up until we arrived home safely.

But while Belfast boasts an unrecognisable landscape these days, with its plush riverside apartments and five-star hotels, we still made the most of what we had then.

There was no trendy Titanic Quarter or continental-style Cathedral Quarter.

Eating out was a luxury rather than a twice-weekly affair.

Nightlife was centred mainly on the Golden Mile or around Shaftsbury Square. Cocktail bars were virtually unheard of.

Still, in those dark days, in the midst of all the madness, Belfast's nightlife scene not only existed but thrived.

The raves of the early 1990s, championed by DJs such as David Holmes and Iain McCready, had not only ignited a healthy club scene in the city, but had gone a long way in breaking down sectarian barriers.

And when the final whistle was blown on those club nights, we moved on to pastures new – Funky Disposition at the Limelight or Vico's, where you could eat, drink and dance all under the one roof.

We had spit and sawdust clubs such as The Crescent, where fake boobs and fake eyelashes were nowhere to be seen.

We had good old-fashioned pubs like Lavery's, The Elms, The Bot, Eglantine Inn, Renshaws and The Empire – the cheap date's paradise, where pizza and a pint was a fiver.

And for the really skint, there was always the Students' Union at Queen's.

It's good to see that some things never change.

The year also heralded the opening of a new club, Thompson's Garage, which has since cemented its position as one of the best-loved nightspots in Belfast.

The same year, dance DJ Carl Cox raised the roof at the Ulster Hall.

Around this time, a new genre of music was emerging called Britpop. In September, a little known Mancunian band played their first Belfast show in rock venue The Limelight.

That night, Oasis had just come off stage when they were told their debut album had gone to number one in the UK charts.

To this day, The Limelight show remains one of the most definitive moments in Northern Ireland's rich musical history.

Definitely Maybe – two words that also define 1994.

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