Music is a crucial part of the creative economy in Northern Ireland (NI). As an industry it contributes almost £70m in annual gross value added (GVA) to the local economy, with a further £8m generated through music related tourism. It is also a fundamental expression of regional identity and a source of inspiration, pleasure and personal fulfilment for musicians and audiences alike.
Northern Ireland is home to annual festivals in many unique venues. From bluegrass in the Ulster American Folk Park to rock music in the Sperrin Mountains, traditional music in the beautiful forest park at Castlewellan to the best international and local pop music at Belsonic in the centre of Belfast.
NI has also produced some of the world’s leading artists. From James Galway to Snow Patrol and David Holmes, NI has always been a country that is rich in music and musical tradition, and as the global music industry continues to grow, this offers a real economic and cultural opportunity for NI.
For decades, Northern Irish music was seen as a musical backwater where bands found it difficult because of geography and politics to get into the wider international scene.
The Arts Council supports all aspects of Music and Opera, in a wide variety of
musical styles - western classical/contemporary concert music, opera, music theatre and musicals, jazz and improvised music, contemporary popular music, world music and traditional music - and including voluntary, amateur, community groups, bands and festivals.
In addition, over the past few years, the musical infrastructure in Northern Ireland has gained momentum. Several labels — including the Londonderry-based Smalltown America and Belfast’s No Dancing Records — management companies, venues, festivals and music promoters now offer a plethora of choice for bands.
Politics, however, was an even bigger stumbling block; Northern Ireland during the Troubles was a literal war zone where bomb scares, murders and kidnappings were daily realities. Belfast went from being a place where musicians like Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin — who played “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time ever live in the city’s Ulster Hall — and local boy Van Morrison would play major gigs, to a city whose center was cordoned off at night by the British military.
Here an example of one of the most popular irish singer (and in all the world) Van Morrison: