Belfast Telegraph

That's Hall folks as curtain comes down at the Mandela

By Ivan Little

Hundreds of music fans are preparing to say a fond farewell to one of Belfast's oldest music venues as the Mandela Hall hosts its last live concert tonight.

The basement venue in the Students' Union building at Queen's University is vanishing as part of a major redevelopment.

Over nearly five decades the Mandela, which was known as the McMordie Hall until 1986, has hosted some of the world's top local and international acts.

And down the years stars including U2, The Clash, Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, Snow Patrol, Calvin Harris, Nile Rodgers, Franz Ferdinand and Mumford And Sons have played in the 1,000-capacity venue.

At the height of the Troubles, when many big names shunned Belfast, students ran a weekly Sunday night gig under the banner of the Esoteric Music Club (EMS), and it was literally at times the only show in town.

One of the stars who performed at EMS was ex-Monkees guitarist Mike Nesmith, who played a solo country and western set. Al Stewart, The Edgar Broughton Band, and The Sutherland Brothers And Quiver were other headliners in the 1970s. The Clash played a sold-out gig in the hall in December 1977.

In the Eighties Strabane-born singer Paul Brady played his anti-violence song The Island for the first time in the venue.

When plans were announced for the closure of the Mandela to make way for a new students' centre, nearly 3,000 people signed a petition opposing the redevelopment.

But demolition work is scheduled to start next month at the Students' Union, which was the nerve centre for civil rights activists at the university in the late 1960s.

The new purpose-built student centre and students' union is due to open in 2021 to cater for the university's 24,000 student population. In the meantime, the Elmwood Hall will be pressed into service as an alternative students' union and there will be additional facilities for a Speakeasy and club.

The farewell concert at the Mandela Hall will be split over two stages, featuring the likes of David C Clements, Ryan Vail and And So I Watch You From Afar.

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