Belfast Telegraph

Why is Barry Douglas not a Sir?

By Amanda Ferguson

Northern Ireland's Barry Douglas is one of the finest classical musicians in the world, he's done incredible work for the community and young people here, and getting anyone to say a bad word about him (and we tried) is impossible. So, why hasn't he had the ultimate honour?

His name is synonymous with classical music excellence, he's one of our most successful exports – and he's a nice guy too.

Barry Douglas has done it all in his career and now friends and supporters are asking the question – isn't it about time he became Sir Barry?

During a career that has spanned more than 35 years, the trailblazing Belfast-born concert pianist and conductor won the gold medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, and in 1999 founded Camerata Ireland to celebrate and nurture the cream of young musical talent on the island.

He received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year's honours list for services to music.

The artistic director of the Clandeboye Festival and Camerata Ireland splits his time between Lurgan and Paris, when he is not busy with his international touring schedule, and has been credited with putting Northern Ireland on the classical map when he and the ensemble perform, to wide critical acclaim, all over the world.

Over 130 young musicians have benefited from their time at Clandeboye and many go on to enjoy successful solo careers.

The 12th festival, featuring the best artistic talent from Chile, England, France, Finland, Ireland and the US, is currently under way. It continues to bring the highest calibre of international artists to Northern Ireland, providing a great opportunity for our young local musicians to hear and be tutored by them.

As audiences enjoy the festival's latest offerings, figures from the creative world shared their thoughts on the contribution Barry Douglas has made to the arts, leading him to become one of our most inspiring cultural figures. Singer Brian Kennedy recalled a special memory of his friendship with Barry.

"I first heard Barry play up close when he made me lie outstretched under his piano with my head at the pedals at a party in his London flat," he said.

"He then proceeded to play Prokofiev and the notes literally danced up and down my body like a tickling machine. Incredible.

"I'm so proud to call Barry a countryman because he is a world champion of classical music that is often portrayed as elitist and class-driven, but he is the exact antithesis of that. He's the perfect example of a naturally gifted and hardworking Lurgan man and I feel proud to know him."

Noirin McKinney, director of arts development at the Arts Council, said: "Barry Douglas is a musician at the peak of his career and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been happy to support and promote his amazing talent.

"Like many of our artists, he is a fantastic ambassador for Northern Ireland, helping to extend the reach of our reputation on the international stage for all the right reasons."

Model agent Maureen Martin is producing tonight's fashion show at Clandeboye featuring young designers accompanied by young festival musicians.

"Barry is an amazing person," Maureen said.

"He deserves the praise he gets, he never stops. It would be great for him to get a knighthood, he deserves it."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for festival sponsor Randox Laboratories, said: "We are proud of our association with Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland. Barry is globally recognised, nurturing new talent and a real innovator in his field."

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