Belfast Telegraph

Revamp puts Spring and Airbrake back in limelight

By Maureen Coleman

The famous Belfast music venue formerly known as Spring and Airbrake is set to reopen later this month as part of a multi-million pound facelift of the Limelight complex.

Under its new name the Limelight, the multi-purpose gig spot will feature state-of-the-art audio and lighting systems in a bigger area, marking phase one of a massive renovation of the Ormeau Avenue-based operation.

The new-look venue will be located on the former site of Spring and Airbrake, alongside Katy's Bar and the Limelight 2 (formerly the Limelight). A new outdoor space, the Rock Garden, is in the pipeline and should open later this year.

The Limelight 2 and Katy's Bar will also undergo a transformation as part of the renovations.

The three popular pubs — which have hosted some of the biggest names in music for almost 30 years, as well as providing a platform for many of Northern Ireland's up and coming bands — were rescued from administration last year when they were bought over by Belfast events company Shine Productions and Dublin-based concert promoter MCD.

CDC Leisure and associated company Tarwood, which owned the three venues, as well as Auntie Annie’s on the Dublin Road, was placed into administration in June 2010.

The business was kept trading by administrator John Hansen of KPMG until the purchase of the three venues late last year.

Speaking about the revamp, co-owner Phil Donaldson, director of the Limelight Belfast Ltd, said: “This represents just the beginning of what promises to be a very exciting period for the Limelight. Extensive redevelopment is planned over the next 18 months which will be entirely focused on delivering a world-class customer experience at our bars, live events and club nights.”

The news of the multi-million pound facelift for the much-loved bars will be a boost for the local music scene, as the venues hold a special place in the hearts of many music fans.

The Limelight, in particular (now Limelight 2) will forever be associated with chart-topping Brit band Oasis, who played there in September 1994 — on the night their debut album Definitely Maybe went to the top of the charts.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in 2009, Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher had fond memories of the pub. “We were playing in a bar in Belfast, I think it was called the Limelight,” he said. “I was in the dressing room afterwards when someone came up and told us the album was going to be number one.”

He also said: “I'll always remember this place with affection. We had a party that night and the audience joined in. That was the start of our success story.”

Other big name acts who played there include Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Libertines, Paul Weller, Kaiser Chiefs, Jeff Buckley, Blur, Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand. And many local bands have played as well, including Snow Patrol and Ash.

Katy Daly's (now Katy's Bar) usually played host to lesser known acts and open mic nights.

Spring and Airbrake, which opened in 2004, provided an additional live music venue alongside Katy's and the Limelight and featured performances by bands like The Zutons, The Magic Numbers and British Sea Power.

The new Limelight complex, encompassing all the venues, will continue to host live acts as well as regular weekly club nights.

A spokesman said this would be “in keeping with the tradition and pedigree this building has built up over the last three decades”.

Upcoming gigs at the Limelight complex include The Proclaimers, Frank Turner, The Staves, and Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns N’ Roses.

Background

The Limelight complex in Belfast is made up of three live music and nightclub venues. It opened in 1984 as the Limelight, growing over the years to include Katy Daly's and Spring and Airbrake. In 2010 the three venues went into administration but were rescued a year later by Shine Productions and MCD. The complex has undergone a major revamp and phase one opens this month. Oasis played the Limelight the night their album Definitely Maybe went to number one. Noel Gallagher later said the venue was part of their heritage.

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