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Singer Soak hits all the right notes at music awards

By Linda Stewart

Things just keep getting better and better for Londonderry singer-songwriter Soak.

The 19-year-old artist has won the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2015 - just weeks after she was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize.

Bridie Monds-Watson, aka Soak, was presented with the award at a special event on Saturday at the Mandela Hall in Belfast.

Meanwhile, a special Oh Yeah Legend Award was presented to the Divine Comedy - but the band nearly didn't make it after being held up for seven hours during a shut-down at Gatwick Airport after a man was caught with a handgun.

The awards were presented by the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast's dedicated music hub, in a culmination of a nine-day celebration of gigs, workshops and community events called Sound of Belfast. Oh Yeah CEO Stuart Bailie said it ended up being a "beautiful night", despite the last-minute hitch.

"The Divine Comedy were stuck at Gatwick for about seven hours," he said.

"We'd spent months getting ready for these events and we got the call at 11.30am."

The band weren't allowed to leave the Sofitel Hotel, next to the airport, while the alert was in place.

"Our nerves were shattered the whole day," Stuart said.

"Finally at 5pm, we got the call to say they were going to be on the 7pm flight. They came in, no sound check or anything. Neil Hannon just played out of his skin - it was the most incredible thing to watch. "It was a beautiful night.

"He dedicated his show to the people who died at the Bataclan theatre."

Soak has had a magnificent year and has been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, which will be announced on November 20.

She was also included in BBC's 'Sound Of' list in January, indicating the best new prospects for the year.

"There were many great records on the shortlist this year, but we're delighted that Soak was the winner," Stuart said.

"It's a remarkable statement and a milestone for Northern Ireland music. The Sound of Belfast programme has once again shown so much amazing potential from our music makers and Soak is one of the artists that will take us into the future."

The Sound of Belfast programme featured 27 events in 9 days and involved 7 different locations. It attracted more than 5,000 people to experience live music from Northern Ireland, introduced around 50 industry professionals and trade bodies and generated over £250,000 of income for Belfast.

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