NORTHERN Ireland’s music scene will be celebrated both in Belfast and internationally this week, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
Local music and culture magazine Dig With It, releases a special 10th issue this Thursday (20 April) to mark the anniversary – looking at the role music has played in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years.
The issue, supported by British Council Northern Ireland, will examine the post-Good Friday Agreement landscape for artists and the struggles that brought us this far. It includes cover stars Problem Patterns, a four-piece feminist queer punk band from Belfast, a moving article from musician Michael Mormecha on his humanitarian visits to Ukraine, a feature on the history and impact of Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre, and DJ Timmy Stewart writes a powerful piece on dance music during the conflict.
Meanwhile, some of the best in Northern Ireland music will be played to audiences across the world on Friday (21 April) through British Council’s global radio show, Selector. The show, which is broadcast in over 35 countries to over four million listeners every week, shines a spotlight on the UK’s best emerging talent, with this week’s show focusing on Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.
It will include an interview with the editor of Dig With It, Stuart Bailie, who will talk about how music has helped conflicts in the past and how it helps currently - playing tracks from Stiff Little Fingers, Chalk, Susie Blue and Phil Kieran. There will also be interviews with three-piece Derry-Londonderry pop-punk group Cherym, County Down musician Lemonade Shoelace, and BBC presenter Gemma Bradley. In addition, listeners will hear from Northern Ireland not-for-profit organisation Free The Night, and Cartin, one of Derry-Londonderry’s most exciting new producers, will play his favourite tracks.
Speaking about the Northern Ireland music scene post-Good Friday Agreement, Dig With It Editor, Stuart Bailie said:
“For me music has been incredibly important for the Northern Ireland peace process and moving forward over the last 25 years. At the time of the Good Friday Agreement, there was an opportunity for hope and music helped to articulate that. The ‘Yes’ gig that U2 and Ash played at the Waterfront changed the vote, it is believed, by 2% and set things in motion.
“As we went into the next millennium, I remember hearing Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘Something Good Could Work’ and Snow Patrol’s ‘Take Back the City’ and these songs for me were the next rallying cries. It still continues now, there’s a song by Susie Blue called ‘People Like Us’ which quietly rebukes outdated ideas in Northern Ireland. Every now and again there’s a song that comes up that crystallises the story.”
For Stuart, it’s an exciting time for music in Northern Ireland, which has gone from strength to strength over the past 25 years.
He said: “We’ve had success stories with Snow Patrol, Two Door Cinema Club and Foy Vance, with big festivals such as Ward Park, Custom House Square and Stendhal Festival helping the music industry here. So, at the business side of things it’s more vibrant and dynamic. While at a grassroots level, I’ve spent ten years at the Oh Yeah Centre, which has done a good job of nurturing new talent and getting young people into music. There are also other amazing hubs like the Nerve Centre in Derry and the Cornstore in Draperstown. Then under the surface, there’s a lot of music connected to marriage equality, reproductive rights and language rights.
“It’s not a boys’ club anymore – there’s a lot of females and non-binary people in music. The pot is bubbling in Northern Ireland, and its rediscovered it punk rock mojo, with new voices that are bringing the spirit of punk into this decade.
“My hopes for the future are for a stronger industry. It would be great to have more support for the infrastructure and for more venues to nurture grassroots music. We’ve got a lot of good managers and promoters out there, all very young. Again, it’s a new generation of people that are rising to the challenge.”
Also commenting on Dig With it and the new global Selector radio show, was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “In this significant 25th anniversary year of the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the British Council is delighted to be supporting this special edition of Dig With it, highlighting the crucial role music has played in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. This anniversary provides an opportunity for us to acknowledge and take stock of the significant role the arts and music have played in Northern Ireland.
“It's also fantastic to have our global radio show, Selector, promoting the best of Northern Ireland music to new global audiences. We have such a rich, diverse and vibrant music scene, with this edition of the show only scratching the surface, leaving us wanting to hear more, and there is so much more to hear.”
Issue 10 of Dig With It will launch at the Oh Yeah Centre this Thursday, 20 April, with performances from Problem Patterns and songwriter Niall McDowell, followed by a DJ set from broadcaster Kwame Daniels. There will also be a discussion panel about subculture and resilience, plus an art installation by Designer Lily Bailie called 'It's Personal'. Admission to the evening is free and doors open at 8pm. To buy a copy visit: https://www.digwithit.com/
British Council’s Selector Radio Northern Ireland edition will broadcast this Friday, 21 April from 12.00GMT. To tune in, visit: https://music.britishcouncil.org/selector-radio.
Both initiatives are part of a week-long international arts and culture programme by the British Council to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. To find out more about the week and more information on British Council Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.