2012 has been promoted as a special year for arts and culture in Northern Ireland. We had the opening of the multi-million pound Titanic Belfast visitor centre earlier in the year. The London 2012 Festival sees large scale events happening everywhere from Derry~Londonderry to the Giant’s Causeway, and later in the year the Belfast Festival at Queen’s – which always boasts an interesting line up of musical artists – celebrates its 50th year.
There are many more cultural events to get excited about, but from a musical point of view, festival season is upon us. In 2012, Tennant’s Vital has returned with an exciting two-day line up of world-class acts, while Belsonic has grown bigger and better than ever before. Outside of Belfast, there is also much to enjoy. A whistle stop tour is in order…
First up is Glasgowbury, the ‘small but massive’ one-day festival that takes place in the Sperrin Mountains in County Londonderry on Saturday, July 21. Founded by the inimitable promoter Paddy Glasgow, the festival has developed into a real homegrown favourite amongst Northern Irish music fans, and regularly gives emerging acts a platform from which to progress.
This year sees Belfast hardcore heroes Therapy? headlining, with Derry~Londonderry electronic three-piece The Japanese Popstars supporting. Also on the bill is everyone from Fighting With Wire to Axis Of, Boxcutter to Paul Casey, Katie and the Carnival to Best Boy Grip and more. If you want to experience Northern Irish music in its current form, then Glasgowbury is surely the place to begin in 2012.
Next up is the giant that is Belsonic (August 15 – 26). Now in its fourth year, the music festival in Belfast’s Custom House Square has always attracted big-name artists, but this year sees the festival expand even further.
The ten-day festival features headliners Skrillex, Emelie Sande, Madness, Thin Lizzy, Paramore, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Two Door Cinema Club, Tom Jones, James Morrison and David Guetta. Of course, all come with established support acts. It’s commercial, but it’s extremely popular, and sure to be a musical highlight in 2012.
Outside of Belfast – but not too far away – Sunflowerfest returns to Hillsborough from August 17 – 19. Described as an ‘excitingly different and experimental weekend festival of great music and arts', Sunflowerfest features ‘superb music, fantastic fun for the family, creative writing workshops, film, storytelling and interactive art and music workshops’.
This year acts confirmed include Dreadzone, Scroobius Pip, Silhouette (pictured above, and whose track 'Can't Keep Up' soundtracks the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's 2012 Our Time Our Place campaign), Ben Glover, Seven Summits, Stereo War Favourites, Relish, Wonder Villians and much, much more. Sunflowerfest is also one for followers of the local scene.
Finally we look forward to Tennant's Vital 2012, this year taking place in the Boucher Road Playing Fields in Belfast from August 21 – 22. Having enjoyed a hiatus from 2008 – 2010, the festival returned in 2011 with a triumphant homecoming gig for Snow Patrol in Ward Park, Bangor.
This time around, the two-day event features headliners Foo Fighters – ably supported by The Black Keys and The Minutes – and The Stone Roses, with support from Florence + The Machine and Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
Of course there are many more music events happening in towns and cities – villages and hamlets – across the country this summer, so keep us informed of what's happening in your area by commenting below.