Oh Yeah, Now That's What I Call Music
New Belfast music centre leads the way for NI musical talent
LISTEN to Lee Henry in conversation with Stuart Bailey and Martin Neill
It might have been a long time in coming, but finally the east side of NI can stand toe-to-toe with the west - home of the prestigious Nerve Centre - as Oh Yeah, Belfast's first and only dedicated music centre, opens its doors for a glimpse into the creative future.
With the objective to aid and abet local musicians in their struggle to succeed in the cut and thrust world of the modern music industry, Oh Yeah will provide a performance space in which artists can perfect their live acts and also world-class recording and multi-media suites where the same artists can record their music and begin their assaults on the annals of rock and pop history.
The site is 15 Gordon Street, BT1 2LG, in the flourishing Cathedral Quarter district. The building is an old whiskey warehouse, with three floors, over 14,500 square feet in area. Eventually, it will house rehearsal rooms, a performance space, office units, business incubation schemes and a café area – a neutral space for music fans and musicians of all ages.
The project was inspired by a series of conversations on December 29, 2005, now as infamous as the Islington meeting between Mssrs Blair and Brown.
On that fateful night, Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol met with Stuart Bailie, Martin Neill and Davy Matchett and all parties agreed that a music hub would add value to Belfast and to the NI music scene as a whole. They also contended that the resulting Oh Yeah would be a not-for-profit organisation with charitable aims.
Bailie is a former Assistant Editor of NME and a BBC Radio Ulster broadcaster. Matchett is a relationship manager for the Bank Of Ireland and Neill is Managing Director of No More Art, a web development company.
The team has also been enhanced by the inclusion of John D’Arcy, Chief Executive of the Association Of Northern Ireland Colleges. D'Arcy is a board member, alongside Gary Lightbody and the BBC’s Mike Edgar.
Oh Yeah recognises that there is a massive resource of musical talent in NI, but that only a small percentage of it is recognised or developed. Many acts still leave NI to become successful. Their business revenue rarely returns to NI.
It is the Oh Yeah objective to address this deficit, to help talent to sustain at home and to nurture a generation of music industry workers in Belfast who can help build an economy here. Oh Yeah are working with a number of other organisations in this regard.
As a musician who struggled for years in the shadows of the music industry before breaking into the bigtime with his third Snowpatrol album Final Straw, Lightbody believes that Oh Yeah is the perfect establishment to help nourish and promote NI talent.
'What Snow Patrol would have given for the advice of professionals, the space to rehearse, a place to hang out and listen to music and meet people that might one day change your life!' admitted the heartfelt frontman. 'What is needed is a nexus to focus musical energy into and to unite the Belfast music scene in a way that has been elusive until now. It is staggering how simple music is when you boil it down: people, together.'
The Oh Yeah team held a make or break meeting with NI Secretary Of State Peter Hain on January 11, 2007 at Millbank in London, where they secured government backing and financial assistance for the Oh Yeah idea.
'I welcome this proposal that helps develop and promote local musical talent and I’m keen to support any initiative that increases the opportunities for young people to realise their full potential,' Secretary of State Hain declared. 'It could also contribute to the development of Belfast as a modern, vibrant city with a strong creative culture.'
On May 5, artists including Lightbody, Duke Special, Elbow's Guy Garvey and NI actor James Nesbit took part in an open day which acted as an official launch for the Oh Yeah music centre. Visitors were given guided tours of the building and its existing facilities and were treated to performances by local and international musicians, with Nesbitt acting as compere for the evening.
Oh Yeah is currently talking to potential funders and sponsors to help in the development of Belfast's first state-of-the-art home for music. A place where music lives, where budding entrepreneurs can work and network. A building that will resound to the sound of the new generation of NI musicians.