8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival

Don't be the coward of the country, take your achy-breaky heart and be next in line for tickets

With the internet, home recording and self publishing, there’s never been a better time to be creative and get involved in music. All over Northern Ireland, people are sitting down with guitars and keyboards to write songs. Why? Because in February, more than 100 artists will play in 35 concerts at the 8th Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.

The annual event is a celebration of the art of songwriting, bringing together award-winning talent from around the world. And in March 2012, Northern Irish artists will have a chance to showcase their talent in Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.

Panarts director, Colin Magee said: 'We started these unique music events in Belfast and Nashville eight years ago. We work with international performers who are willing to share a stage with great local artists like Shauna Tohill, Aaron Shanley and Thom Southern.

'The Songwriters In The Round gigs have become our most popular events and give a real boost to emerging writers. We also attract an audience from many different countries, helping the local economy during the quiet winter months.'

Rosa Solinas, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 'The Belfast Nashville Festival places songwriters centre stage, providing a platform for them to develop their craft and perform alongside some of the most celebrated names in the business. It raises the international profile of the music and musicians emerging from this island, which is very good news for Northern Ireland.'

Along with the 35 concerts and showcases, country music fans have the 8th Panarts Songwriting Convention to look forward to, when music industry experts and writers share their skills and knowledge in 15 workshops and panel discussions.

World-class songwriters such as Nick Lower (pictured above), John Oates, who wrote ‘She’s Gone’ and ‘Maneater’, and Mark Nevin, who wrote ‘Perfect’ and songs for Morrissey and David Bowie, will demonstrate how they write their award-winning songs. Representatives of PRS for Music and BMI will also be there to answer questions on copyright, royalties and income streams.

The Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival runs from February 22 – 26. But tickets at the Belfast Nashville websiteTicketmaster.co.uk, and Belfast Welcome Centre on 028 9024 6609. Watch a video featuring one of last year's star performers, Thom Southern, below.