Belfast City Council is investing £5.9 million to deliver the city’s “biggest ever cultural and creative celebration” beginning in spring 2024.
Belfast 2024 will see the city come alive with ambitious participative workshops, performances, and events as well as an array of creative projects and initiatives to celebrate our homegrown culture, creativity, and the city itself.
People, Place, and Planet will be the key themes in a programme of 24 large-scale commissions that will bring over 200 events, workshops, and activities to Belfast from March to November 2024.
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Seventeen of the major events planned have been specially commissioned following an open call to artists, collectives and organisations earlier this year.
Earlier this autumn, the investment was approved by all political parties at Belfast City Council and follows extensive engagement with local cultural, community, and arts providers over the last 18 months. As well as this, there has been an ongoing public consultation around how best to showcase Belfast’s many diverse and unique cultures.
The events are set to provide a welcome financial boost to the city’s cultural sector, supporting jobs and creating new opportunities for residents to enjoy, access, and participate in the arts and creativity. It will also encourage visitors into Belfast to support the local economy and showcase the city as a global destination for culture.
Events in development for Belfast 2024 so far include:
- Eden Project Partnership – Belfast City Council has been working in collaboration with Eden Project, based in Cornwall, to develop a partnership with Belfast. It will explore our relationship with nature and the climate crisis and how we re-evaluate and re-invent our urban spaces to be more sustainable and become more engaged with the natural world through creative and cultural interventions.
- Public art, inspired by nature – Council is also working in collaboration with Oliver Jeffers, the Nerve Centre, and the Eden Project on research and development around the potential for public art installations in Belfast city centre in April/May 2024. These will be based on the themes of nature, power, and a greener city and highlight the importance of sustainability in Belfast’s future development and growth.
- Maritime-inspired events – a renewed focus on the River Lagan, highlighting our maritime heritage and re-engaging our people with the river, during summer and winter 2024. Maritime-themed concepts under development include a river pavilion, a mass boat-building project, and beer and bread brewing activities, marking the city’s origins and connections with the River Farset.
- Black Mountain Shared Space guerilla gardening project with creative lead Eileen McClory – an ambitious large-scale, multi-layered, multi-artform, and multi-event project throughout 2024. It aims to rewild peace walls in West Belfast into vibrant, inclusive, vertical gardens for the future, through dance, storytelling, and gardening, while inspiring civic pride and activism within local communities.
- Celebrating the International Decade of African Descent – Kwame Daniels and Bounce Culture will present an immersive music event as a finale to a city-wide engagement project, inspired by Frederick Douglass’ famous quote about feeling at home in Belfast during his time here in the 1800s. This unique project, in autumn 2024, will showcase local, contemporary black culture in the city in the final year of this commemorative decade.
- Immersive Experience at Thompson Dry Dock – developed in partnership with architect Henry Sykes and Three’s Theatre Company, this spectacle event in late summer/early autumn 2024 will combine light, shadow, colour, and sound and take place in the iconic dock where the Titanic was launched. 40 feet below sea level, it will invite the audience to participate and experience the world around them from a different perspective.
- City of Music event – a major event in autumn 2024, celebrating Belfast’s local music scene and highlighting our UNESCO City of Music designation.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, said the Belfast 2024 programme is a “hugely ambitious and exciting step forward” for the city. He added: “By investing in the arts in this way, we are creating new opportunities to protect, sustain, and develop employment in a sector that is a catalyst for so much of our local economy.
“The city’s arts and cultural community have had real input into this programme, as have our residents through a variety of creative engagement, events, workshops, and pilot projects – they’ve told us what they think will attract people to come into the city and make the most of their time here, as well as what works best to encourage communities to get involved in creativity and really make Belfast 2024 their own
“The spectacle events being developed will draw in the crowds while delivering powerful, thought-provoking messages around diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, but I’m also delighted to see so many activities planned which draw upon our own personal experiences of culture, and shine a light on how, together, they make up the fabric of our city.
“I’m so excited to have Belfast 2024 kicking off in my year in office and would encourage everyone to get involved in taking part and attending events as they are announced – let’s show what we, as a city, can offer and get behind this celebration of what Belfast is, and what it can be in the future.”
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Sixteen artists from the council’s creative bursary programme will work in partnerships with creative teams and local communities throughout 2024 to create a lasting legacy of participation and interest in the arts, with projects exploring identity and belonging. Projects will also celebrate new and minority communities, along with elements of traditional culture.
British Council NI is also partnering with the council to deliver six international artist residencies, working with communities to deliver co-designed creative interventions across the city.
A Creative Citizens scheme is also planned as part of Belfast 2024, where local communities can put forward their own ideas for projects linked to the programme’s themes. Residents will be asked to vote for their favourite schemes to take place in neighbourhoods across the city during 2024.
A music heritage programme is also under development while innovation and tech will play a key role, including immersive initiatives focusing on play and digital technology. Existing events, such as St Patrick’s Day, will also be enhanced as part of the Belfast 2024 programme.
More details of the Belfast 2024 programme will be announced in due course and be available from belfastcity.gov.uk/belfast2024
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