UnConvention Belfast

Belfast hosts ground-breaking ‘unconference’ for musicians and music industry professionals

Musicians and music businesses are set to profit from 'UnConvention Belfast', a two-day conference attended by key industry players in Belfast this February. 

Taking place in Belfast's Black Box on February 6 and 7 and totally free to attend, 'UnConvention Belfast' is a music conference with a difference - its innovative format of participant-led panels, workshops, speed networking/mentoring, open-floor presentations and informal networking is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

'We got the idea from UnConvention Manchester last October, which was a grassroots convention that ran at the same time as the main In the City event,' says Tracy Dempsey, who, along with Escape Act's Rich Dale, Nick Fitzsimons and Jen McCullough, founded 'UnConvention Belfast'. 

'All of us are involved in running or contributing to other music industry events here in Northern Ireland and feel very passionately that more collaboration is the key to success. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to get together in one place to discuss trends, share experience and successful strategies, and be re-inspired,' Dempsey explains. 

Following his involvement in UnConvention Manchester Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens became one of the first to sign up for the Belfast event. 

'I’m looking forward to finding out more about the scene in Belfast, which seems to be thriving at the moment. Rory McConnell’s Radio 1 show features so many quality artists from Northern Ireland so to get to Belfast and meet the bands and managers is an exciting prospect. In the music world, doing it yourself is essential at the moment, and so I’m looking forward to seeing what will be discussed,' comments Stephens.

'As well as more traditional themed workshops and panels, the event will feature 'speed networking' and 'speed mentoring' sessions during which participants can learn from their peers and key industry figures,' Dempsey says of UnConvention Belfast's unorthodox format.

The music industry is at the forefront of the technological revolution, and, as anyone who attended Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission's Way Forward conference last autumn knows, how the industry reacts to new media and the rise of the download are questions of paramount importance at this juncture. 

'The future of the music industry is enmeshed with technological advances and trends - we wanted to reflect that with UnConvention. We've got a Facebook group/event, an event on LastFM.com, regular updates from @UnConvention on Twitter, an RSS feed for the site and CultureNorthernIreland will of course be recording podcasts during the event!' enthuses Dempsey.

The event has received backing from some big hitters, with Belfast City Council and NIMIC both sponsoring UnConvention. 

'Belfast City Council is committed to helping support the development of the creative industries in our city which, if nurtured and supported in the right way, have the ability to make Belfast truly competitive on the global stage,' comments Councillor Michael Browne, Chairman of BCC’s Development Committee.

The event also features a live showcase of some of the brightest lights on the Northern Ireland music scene. Headliners Ed Zealous have recently been announced as support for success story Snow Patrol, and John Shelly & The Creatures have just been chosen as the ‘Sound of Northern Ireland’ by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. 

UnConvention promises to be quite unlike any music conference Belfast has seen before. Admission is free but registration is essential - so you had better hurry, there are only a few places left.

Full information about the event and details on how to register are available at www.unconventionbelfast.com.

Peter Geoghegan