Belfast gains coveted UNESCO City of Music status

Celebrating its rich musical heritage and the plethora of talented musicians hailing from the Northern Irish city, UNESCO has awarded Belfast a much-coveted title.

Belfast has been awarded the coveted UNESCO City of Music status, recognising the city’s rich history of music.

Throughout the U.K., only two other cities have previously received the award. UNESCO granted Glasgow City of Music status in 2008. Meanwhile, Liverpool received the honour in 2006.

With a rich musical heritage, boasting prominent artists throughout the decades, and a thriving up-and-coming music scene, Belfast is well-deserving of this coveted title.

Belfast’s thriving music scene – an ever-growing industry

Belfast granted UNESCO City of Music status.

Belfast joins 58 other cities from around the world to gain the coveted UNESCO City of Music status. The city hosts festivals such as Belsonic, which is one of the best annual music festivals in Ireland.

UNESCO’s City of Music programme is part of the wider Creative Cities Network. UNESCO established the programme in 2004 “to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”.

Belfast City Council worked closely with the City of Music steering group to put forward the bid. Then, on 8 November, UNESCO granted Belfast the much sought-after creative title.

The city’s musical patrons – the biggest names in the business

Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody is one of the official patrons.

Gary Lightbody of the internationally renowned rock band Snow Patrol joins Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel to become an official Belfast Music patron.

Both musicians, hailing from the north of Ireland, committed to supporting Belfast’s title bid.

Speaking on the announcement, Lightbody said music is “woven into the DNA of Belfast”. He continued, “We have so many incredible bands and artists – and more every single year.

“I’ve watched in these last 25 years of relative peace the music scene grow and then thrive and now burst at the seams with fearless and limitless talent.

“Being designated as a UNESCO City of Music honours the gargantuan effort that the entire music scene has made to help raise Belfast up and out of the darkest of times.”

Belfast gains coveted UNESCO City of Music status – the first city in Ireland to do so

Hannah Peel is also a patron as Belfast is granted UNESCO City of Music status.
Credit: Flickr / Paul Hudson

Gaining the coveted title means Belfast is the first UNESCO City of Music in Ireland to do so, coming ahead of cultural hubs such as Galway and Dublin.

To gain recognition, a city must reach several strict criteria. First, it must prove it can host national and international music events and festivals.

It must encourage musical education and have music venues of varying sizes, suitable for concerts gigs, and recitals. Finally, the city must promote all genres of music, encouraging residents to get involved in all different ways.

A ten-year cultural strategy – encouraging the arts

Belfast's bid for UNESCO City of Music status is part of a ten-year cultural strategy.

Belfast City Council launched a ten-year cultural strategy last April. The recent bid for the coveted UNESCO City of Music status is part of that strategy.

Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said it was “wonderful news” for the city. She continued, “Belfast is proud of its music culture. Creativity and resilience are in the very fabric of our city and our people.

“Last April, we launched a ten-year cultural strategy, which will see a ‘year of culture’ in 2024. The UNESCO accolade is the perfect way to kickstart these plans, much of which revolves around music.”

We can’t wait to see Northern Ireland‘s music scene continue to thrive as the new UNESCO City of Music.

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