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Former Belfast Tesco store to host live music, pop-up market and children's workshops in run-up to Christmas

Music gigs, exhibitions and a pop-up market will appear inside the former Tesco store in Belfast’s city centre over the next two weeks - a planned temporary use of the landmark building before it is turned into a cultural centre.

The council bought the building at 2 Royal Avenue earlier this year - previously on the market for approximately £4m - and quickly applied for planning permission to turn the space into a centre for the arts and culture.

But in the shorter term, in the run-up to Christmas, a series of events are planned along with the setting up of market stalls and a coffee, snack shop featuring local produce.

Activities in the run-up to Christmas include free music from Belfast Ukulele Jam and The Swingtime Starlets at 5pm on Thursday, followed by performances from City of Belfast School of Music, Belfast Busking Band and Rosinka Russian Choir this weekend.

Other events planned include a free children's workshops, including Sing and Sign Belfast, music workshops and taster sessions from Drake Music Project Northern Ireland and WheelWorks.

Sound Baths with Sound Healing Spa will be in residence, while there will be a screening of The Snowman, accompanied live by Downshire Brass and an Art Unwrapped exhibition organised with the Ulster University and National Museums NI.

Council officials have recommended approval of the application for the longer-term plan to turn the former store into a cultural centre. The council's planning committee will consider the application on Tuesday.

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The front half of the planned centre features a reception area, a ‘servery’ for heated or cold foods, pods, a gallery and a stage area. There will be a larger music space to the rear.

Tesco Metro opened a store on the site in 1996. It was previously the Belfast branch of the Provincial Bank of Ireland.

The Venetian Gothic-style building was constructed between 1864 and 1869. It was designed by architect William Joseph Barre, who also the drew the plans for the Ulster Hall and the Albert Clock.

Speaking about the opening of the new space, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl said, “This pilot project on meanwhile cultural space is a fantastic example of city collaboration, bringing together different elements of the cultural and experiential sectors to offer a unique programme of events and activities for people to enjoy.

“The amazing music programme celebrates our UNESCO City of Music status and helps make our pledge of transforming vacant places into new music venues a reality.

“I would encourage people to come on into the city centre and check out the wonderful welcoming and playful space. There’s so much to see and do in the venue and it’s also a really beautiful building to drop in and reflect.”

Booking is essential for all events - more info at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/2royalavenueevents

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