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From Beatlemania to cars, cows and contests

By Nevin Farrell

The King's Hall is one of Northern Ireland's most iconic buildings and has dominated the south Belfast skyline from before the Second World War.

Most people over a certain age here have been there at some stage, whether it was as one of the thousands attending the Balmoral agricultural show or taking in a big-name concert.

Music sensations like The Beatles brought their mania there in 1964 while Bono and U2 were on stage in 1987. The Pussycat Dolls brought the house down in 2009. It also regularly hosted amusement shows.

The King's Hall has also been home to a huge number of big exhibitions where thousands flocked to take in everything from the Ideal Home Show to holiday shows and the very popular motor shows when cars like the famous Belfast-made DeLorean were big attractions. Annual motorcycle shows were also held there, tapping into Northern Ireland's love of road racing and all two-wheeled motorsport.

Some of the biggest moments in boxing occurred amid rapturous scenes at the King's Hall where homeboy fighters like Dave 'Boy' McAuley and Barry McGuigan raised the roof of the famous old building.

Rinty Monaghan boxed there several times and a blue plaque was unveiled in his memory in 2007.

Politics are never far away in Northern Ireland and the King's Hall has also proved a kingmaker for many politicians as election results were counted there.

The sprawling wider complex at Balmoral was also the scene of some of the biggest unionist demonstrations against Home Rule for Ireland when tens of thousands crammed in to hear their leader Sir Edward Carson denounce the plans in the pre-First World War era.

One estimate put the crowd on one occasion at a 200,000.

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society has moved the Balmoral Show out of Belfast to the Maze site and now the King's Hall site has to compete with the Odyssey and Waterfront Hall for major events.

The first Balmoral Show was held there in 1896 and the last in 2012.

The actual King's Hall showpiece building was opened by the Duke of Gloucester on May 29, 1934 and closed on June 30, 2012, when new pavilions were built.

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