Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

How hitting all the right notes makes city a star

You might think Snow Patrol at the City Hall would be hard to top. But that's exactly what Belfast Music Week plans to do, says Gavin Robinson

It's hard to believe that it's almost a year ago since Bieber fever gripped Belfast. The red carpets were rolled out and helicopters filled the sky as Belfast prepared to take the global stage, playing host to the MTV European Music Awards.

The excitement in the city was palpable; in shops, restaurants, clubs and by the water cooler, the conversations were all the same - had Chris Martin really been spotted doing his Christmas shopping in Victoria Square? Was it true that Lady Gaga had been seen stocking up at a butcher's shop? Where was Justin Bieber staying?

The idea of Belfast hosting such a world-class event as the EMAs would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

It is a city that's still in transition, but securing the MTV bid was perhaps the proof we all needed that Belfast - and indeed Northern Ireland - has come a long way.

Belfast people are very proud of their city - and rightly so; now here was the opportunity for the rest of the world to catch on.

Not only that, but here was an opportunity for us to showcase the best of our home-grown musical talent, some of which has gone on to claim international success.

One such band is Snow Patrol, who performed an unforgettable gig against the iconic backdrop of City Hall as part of last year's EMAs, marking the end of a hugely successful Belfast Music Week.

This year, fans of the local band will have the chance to relive that amazing night when the big screen at City Hall shows the gig on Friday, November 9.

It's just one event on the packed programme that has been announced for this year's Belfast Music Week, which runs from November 4 to 11.

Now in its third year, Music Week is going from strength to strength. Next week, more than 250 events will be held across the city - from intimate acoustic gigs, to massive productions, there will be something for everyone.

And as well as great music, the programme also focuses on industry issues, with a series of panels that will include some of the top names in the music industry.

This demonstrates Belfast City Council's continued commitment to nurturing and growing the creative industries in our city and enabling them to compete - and, indeed, punch above their weight - on the global stage.

Last year, Belfast Music Week attracted more than 33,000 people to the city, with more than 170 live performances in 45 venues. The event was also named Best Event in the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards. In addition, the MTV EMAs showcased some of Northern Ireland's finest to a global audience of millions. In spite of what any cynics might say, those figures are impressive and they have given us a good foundation on which to build.

Culture and arts, in particular music, are key to tourism. We already have a rich history, a history that sadly too often has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons; but last year, the images that were beamed around the world were ones of celebration and achievement.

Belfast's arts scene has never looked more vibrant. This year alone, Belfast City Council has supported 21 community festivals.

Investment in tourism, culture and arts is key and we've already seen the benefits of such investment by being named in many Top 10 must-see city polls.

I hope that this year's Belfast Music Week is another huge success and I would encourage anyone who has never been before to take a look at the programme.

Many of the events are free, so why not take this opportunity to experience world-class music right here on your doorstep?

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