Belfast celebrates Branagh’s Freedom award
30 Jan 2018
One of Belfast’s most famous sons will officially become a Freeman of the City at a celebration event in the Ulster Hall tonight (Tuesday).
Sir Kenneth Branagh will be joined on the historic stage of the Ulster Hall by some of Belfast’s finest emerging and established actors and writers, with the highly-acclaimed actor/director also performing in what is set to be a truly special occasion.
Tonight’s event will celebrate Kenneth Branagh’s long and productive artistic and charitable connection to Belfast, where he was born and lived until the age of nine.
Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle, who has written scores for a number of Branagh films, will play alongside the Ulster Orchestra, and works by Graham Reid, Owen McCafferty, Sinead Morrissey, Emma Must and fellow Freeman of the City Michael Longley will also feature.
Among the readers is Julia Dearden who played Kenneth Branagh’s girlfriend in the ‘Billy’ plays which first brought him to prominence, and actor Ian McElhinney– well known for his role in Game of Thrones and currently filming Krypton in Belfast - will also be performing.
Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said: “It’s really exciting to welcome Ken to the city and to celebrate all he has achieved in what has been a remarkable career to date.
“Apart from his film and stage work for which he is so well known, Ken also has a very personal and enduring connection to his home city, reflected in the charity work he is involved in here - which will also be recognised during the very special event in the Ulster Hall.
“I trust it will be a very enjoyable and memorable day for Ken.”
Belfast City Council working with Film Hub NI has organised a pop-up ‘Branagh in Belfast’ film festival, with free screenings being held in venues across the city today, including Cinderella at Belfast Castle, and Dunkirk onboard the HMS Caroline.
Into Film and Cinemagic are also coordinating a series of screenings in several Belfast schools so children and young people will have the opportunity to enjoy some of Branagh’s work.
The Lord Mayor added: “Ken’s roots in north Belfast have given him a love for the city of his birth and an understanding of its potential so that from the earliest moments of his career, promoting the arts in Belfast has been high on his agenda.
“I am particularly delighted, in my year championing a theme of Global Belfast, to celebrate a man who is a true global ambassador for this city.”
Writing in the programme for tonight’s Ulster Hall ceremony, Kenneth Branagh said: “My Belfast childhood was characterised by Freedom. Here was a city, a big city to my child’s eyes that always felt like a village.
“It seemed like you couldn’t get lost. Everyone knew you or someone who knew you. In the landscape, the Cavehill seemed to wrap itself around you protectively from one side, and the shipyard raised the strong arms of its cranes from the other.
“You could see and feel the limits of where you lived, and you knew exactly who you were – Belfast, working class, proud.”
He continues: “To come back home, and receive the Freedom that so symbolises my experience of the city, is a humbling honour.
“I want to sincerely thank the Lord Mayor, the councillors who nominated me and all the city officers and supporters elsewhere who have made this generous occasion happen.”
Follow the hashtag #BranaghinBelfast on Twitter and Facebook for updates throughout the day.