Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival: March 11-13

Broadcaster Ralph McLean on the special relationship between Belfast and Nashville, ahead of a series of gigs stateside

There are many things that unite the cities of Belfast and Nashville but nothing symbolises our Sister City relationship better than music. The mastery of timeless tunes and the magical weaving of words is a semi-mystical process to many but it’s something we’ve always done with ease.

You can hear it in modern country music, so rooted in the traditional Irish and Scottish songs transported in their primitive form across the Atlantic all those years ago.

It’s there to enjoy in the Celtic poetry of Van Morrison and the big, heart swelling anthems of bands like Snow Patrol. Listen closely and you can hear that shared magic in the pure acoustic soul of the humble singer songwriter who’s playing seven nights a week in both Botanic Avenue and Lower Broadway. Music is a second language in both Belfast and Nashville and that thrilling, life affirming beat throbs through our collective bloodstreams.

Walk down the main thoroughfares and side streets of Belfast and just like Nashville you’ll hear music, of just about every description, pouring out of just about every doorway. It’s how we define ourselves and it’s how we present ourselves culturally to the world. It’s a legacy of great art that we are rightly proud of and when a musician from Belfast meets a fellow performer from Nashville they know they’re talking to a like minded soul, an individual for whom the thousands of miles of separation mean nothing.

Much more than a Sister City relationship this is a family affair and the party is only just beginning.


Belfast and Nashville are celebrating 16 years as sister cities, a partnership designed to promote cultural, tourism and business development opportunities between the two cities. One highlight of the sister city relationship is the annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival Showcase, a three night series of performances featuring top writers from Belfast and Nashville. This year’s event is March 11, 12 and 13 at The Belcourt Theatre, Bluebird Café and Dan McGuinness Pub.

Both cities enjoy a rich musical history incorporating a variety of genres. The Belfast music scene has produced stars from a wide-variety of formats including multi-Grammy winner Van Morrison, movie soundtrack composer David Holmes (Oceans Eleven, Out of Sight), ‘70s rock hitmakers Thin Lizzy and acclaimed flautist Sir James Galway. Bringing together songwriters from Belfast and Music City to celebrate the art of songwriting enables everyone to discover more about the links between a shared musical heritage and the traditional roots of American songwriting.

Scheduled for the showcase are:

Thursday, March 11, 8:00 pm, Dan McGuinness Pub: Aaron Shanley, Ricky Warwick, Anthony Toner.

Friday, March 12, 6:30 pm, Bluebird Café: Tia Sillers, Mark Selby, Gareth Dunlop, Iain Archer.

Saturday, March 13, 7:00 pm, The Belcourt Theatre: Bobby Bare, Jr., Elizabeth Cook, Dave Olney, Pat Alger, Aaron Shanley, Ricky Warwick, Iain Archer, Gareth Dunlop.

Admission to every event is free. Commenting on the event, Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long said: 'The Festival promotes and strengthens our Sister City link and enhances our cultural exchange. Belfast’s new music scene receives high international praise and our latest generation of musicians is playing a crucial role in revitalizing the city.'


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