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Fans want new Belfast bridge named after Van Morrison

By Ivan Little

Published 08/02/2016

Van Morrison playing Cyprus Avenue last year
Van Morrison playing Cyprus Avenue last year
Existing bridge at Greenville Park to Orangefield Park
New bridge connecting Greenville Park and Orangefield Park
New bridge at Orangefield Lane

Fans of Sir Van Morrison are pressing the developers of bridges under construction in east Belfast to name one of them after their hero.

The move came after Belfast City Council and Connswater Community Greenway officials teamed up last week to invite the public to come up with ideas for names for the three bridges and a new pathway in the Orangefield district.

Many of Morrison's songs are rooted in the area, which is close to where he grew up, and he recorded a song called Orangefield in 1989 when he recalled meeting a girl on a "golden autumn day" and falling in love beside a river in the area.

Morrison, who received the freedom of Belfast in 2013, attended Orangefield Boys' School and went back there to play a concert marking its closure in 2014.

The £40m Greenway, which follows the course of the Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers, will provide 10 miles of new cycle paths and walkways plus 26 new bridges and crossings once it is completed next year, linking Belfast Lough to the Castlereagh Hills.

The first phase of the Greenway plan included a bridge connecting Victoria Park to the Harbour Estate, and the Connswater Trust asked the public to name it.

It received hundreds of suggestions and it was eventually named the Sam Thompson Bridge after the late playwright, whose controversial play Over The Bridge centred on sectarianism in the nearby shipyard.

Anne McMurray from the Connswater Community Greenway Trust said of the new campaign: "It's a wonderful opportunity for east Belfast and the wider Belfast community to put their stamp on, take ownership and name what we hope will become an important part of the infrastructure of east Belfast."

Morrison, who received his knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace last week, used the name of the Connswater River in the title of an instrumental track on his 1983 Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart album.

Now his fans want the council and Connswater Greenway officials to return the compliment by honouring him by naming at least one of the bridges after him.

Scores of self-styled Vanatics from all over the world who came to Belfast for the singer's 70th birthday concerts in Cyprus Avenue last year contribute to a Facebook page - Van Morrison in Ireland - and they have already posted suggestions on social media.

The suggestions include ones associated with well-known Morrison songs including the Gloria Bridge, the Astral Bridge, the Caravan Bridge and the Moondance Bridge.

One fan suggested the Van the Man Span for one of the bridges, while another proposed the Vanway for the new pathway linking Orangefield Park to the Knock dual carriageway.

Another fan has said that as well as Morrison, one of the bridges should be named after the late guitar legend Gary Moore, who was raised in east Belfast and who died five years ago from a heart attack during a holiday in Spain.

Suggestions for names which have been put forward include the playwrights Stewart Parker and John Boyd, who were both from the east of the city.

And internationally acclaimed writer CS Lewis has also been suggested as a possible name for one of the bridges.

However, he is already being remembered in a civic square under construction at the junction of the Connswater Greenway and the Comber Greenway, which runs along the route of the old Belfast to Comber railway line.

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