Rebirth of vinyl sees new record store give it a spin in heart of Belfast
A new independent record shop has opened close to the Primark site in Belfast, offering a boost to city centre retail.
Experienced music promoter Darren Smyth is one of the figures behind Strange Victory Records, with Jeff Doherty, owner of used vinyl speciality store Dragon Records on Wellington Place, also involved.
Today's official opening of the 22 Berry Street store coincides with Record Store Day, the now annual celebration of independent record shop culture.
The new store is the latest boost for retail trade around the Primark cordon following the reopening of Zara's only local outlet last week.
Darren, who has helped bring over 400 bands and musicians to Belfast over the last 18 years, said he felt there was a gaping hole in the market for an independently owned outlet to buy new vinyl.
"Outside of HMV there is nowhere to buy new vinyl in what is supposedly a capital city. We're the only city I can think of in Europe I think that doesn't have at least one," he said.
The promoter said he understands the challenge in store. Sick Records on North Street and Head Records in CastleCourt are among the Belfast record shops to close in recent years.
"It's not a business for anyone looking to make a million," he said. "It's a very difficult business to run. But Belfast needs it and that's a big part of why we've done it. We think we can sustain it and grow it."
Vinyl sales are on the rise in the UK. Some 4.2 million vinyl albums were sold last year, 1.6% more than in 2017.
Darren said he has been particularly inspired by the number of younger music fans picking up records, adding: "It's great to see.
"We don't want it to be an intimidatory place, which a lot of record shops back in the day used to be.
"We want people to tell us what they want it to be and what they want us to stock."
Darren said that alongside well-known artists, Strange Victory Records will provide a platform for local bands and become a focal point for the local scene.
He added: "We have the space to do in store performances, so we hope to reach out to the local community in terms of that. We hope to do one a week from the end of May and also touring bands as well."
Along with helping bring a host of international acts to play in Belfast's main music venues, Darren recently collaborated with David Holmes for the God's Waiting Room club night in east Belfast's Maple Leaf Club.
Despite the venue being bulldozed last year, he says the Belfast music scene has never been in better shape.
"There hasn't been so many touring acts coming through Belfast. It's probably the best it has been since the 1960s," he said.
"So it's important in your own little way to give them an experience of the place apart from Primark and Tesco."