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New book tells story of Van Morrison's Cyprus Avenue 70th birthday gigs

By Ivan Little

Published 21/12/2015

Van Morrison performs on Cyprus Avenue
Van Morrison performs on Cyprus Avenue
Images taken by Ken Haddock of the Cyprus Avenue gig that will appear in the book
Images taken by Ken Haddock of the Cyprus Avenue gig that will appear in the book

The extraordinary lengths that organisers of the Van Morrison 70th birthday concerts on Belfast's Cyprus Avenue went to earlier this year to ensure the gigs could go ahead are revealed in a lavish new book about that special August day.

Caught One More Time captures the excitement which surrounded Morrison's two sold-out concerts on the avenue which he made famous with songs on his celebrated Astral Weeks album and on subsequent records.

But the book which retails at £30 also details how the EastSide Partnership, who came up with the idea for the landmark concerts, got residents of the leafy avenue on board with their plans by holding public meetings and keeping in close contact with them.

In the book Maurice Kinkead, the chief executive of the Partnership, who held extensive negotiations with Government officials, police, transport bodies and Belfast City Council, said: "I think over the course of the process I personally delivered three letters through each other and sent countless emails. It was important to me that everyone knew what was planned and that they had been consulted."

One of the houses - described in song by Morrison as the mansions on the hill - visited by Kinkead was the home of the widow of the late DUP leader, Rev Ian Paisley.

After reassurances that disruption on Cyprus Avenue would be kept to a minimum, Baroness Paisley of St George's told organisers she had no objections to the concerts proceeding as planned and her MP son Ian Paisley junior, who attended both gigs, said his mother was listening from her garden.

The book also discloses how Kinkead became the go-to man for hundreds of Morrison fans - the self-styled Vanatics - from around the world who bought tickets for the concerts.

He set up a Facebook page as a source of information and an exchange of views and helped to entertain the visitors with tours of Morrison's haunts in Belfast and parties where a Van the Man tribute band played.

A number of writers (including this one) provided articles for the book reviewing the concerts, re-visiting Morrison's career and profiling the residents and the out-of-town visitors.

The renowned British rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky, who has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, took pictures for the book whose title is a nod to the opening lyrics of Morrison's song Cyprus Avenue.

Among local photographers who supplied pictures from the Cyprus Avenue concerts was popular Belfast singer Ken Haddock who has also been establishing a reputation for himself with his portrait work.

Images in the 60-page book include photographs of garden parties which were held along Cyprus Avenue on the day of the concerts, when one family even erected a giant inflatable bar.

A total of 1,000 books have been printed and a third were pre-ordered by the Vanatics and fans from nearer home whose names have been included in a special section of the limited-edition publication which has been released with an eye to the Christmas market.

Celebrities including actors Robert Pattinson and Kim Cattrall; former Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine; TV chef Rick Stein and Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde were among the audience who attended the shows.

Heather Chesney from the EastSide Partnership, who have published the book in tandem with Morrison's own Exile Productions company, says early feedback shows that Caught One More Time has gone down well with the fans.

She said: "We wanted to produce a fitting souvenir of a remarkable day and everyone is very pleased with the way it turned out."

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