Sir Kenneth Branagh says it's an 'incredible honour' to receive freedom of Belfast
'You can take the boy out of Belfast but you can't take Belfast out of the boy'
Sir Kenneth Branagh has called it an "incredible honour" as he is to become the 82nd recipient of the freedom of Belfast.
The request was put forward in April 2017 by the then Lord Mayor of Belfast, Brian Kingston, who asked that Sir Kenneth be recognised for his outstanding achievements and international status in drama and cinema, as an actor, director, producer and screenwriter.
A special meeting was held at City Hall on Monday night ahead of the council's monthly meeting where members unanimously agreed to bestow the honour upon the north Belfast native.
Reacting to the news Sir Kenneth said it was an "incredible honour from his home town".
In a statement he said: “Belfast has always given me more than I could ever repay.
“It took great care of me til the age of 9. It gave me a profound sense of family, a magnificent landscape to play in, and a Belfast sense of humour that is a constant boisterous reminder to never take yourself too seriously.
“It gave me my first professional job, in Graham Reid's Billy Plays. It gave me the sharpest and most generous of audiences at the Opera House and at the Lyric theatre, and at cinemas across the years, who welcomed and supported my films.
I’m proud to say that you can take the boy out of Belfast, but you can't take Belfast out of the boy.
He added: “This is an incredible honour from my home town and I am humbled to be included in a roll call that includes artists like Van Morrison and Michael Longley and the nurses of the city who were recognised last year.
“I used to run home for my lunch when I was at the Grove Primary School in North Belfast. My granny looked after me while my folks were at work. My father a joiner, my mum working in the local chippy. Granny lived in a very small but spotlessly clean house which I particularly remember for the eccentric and temperamental outside loo.
“If she and my parents from those humble beginnings had been told that the Freedom of the City could ever come my way, they would have expired with pride. They loved this place and these people, as do I.
“I thank Belfast City Council for their generosity, and please know that I will continue to shout aloud to the world at large about the many amazing developments happening in the place I am proud to call home.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, said: “Hailing from north Belfast myself, I am especially delighted to see a fellow north Belfast native receive this very special honour.
“The granting of the Freedom of the City is the greatest honour which Belfast City Council can bestow on any person, and Sir Kenneth Branagh is a most worthy recipient.
“As someone who has reached the very pinnacle of his career in acting and film, he has never forgotten his Belfast roots and is a fantastic ambassador for the city.”
Other recent recipients include Michael Longley, Van Morrision, and Dame Mary Peters.
Details of the official Freedom of the City ceremony for Sir Kenneth will be announced at a later date.
Belfast Telegraph Digital