Date: 06 Oct 2023
Category: Culture and arts
Belfast City Council is investing £5.9 million to deliver the city’s biggest ever creative and cultural celebration, with a programme of world-class spectacle events and community-led activities planned for throughout the city in 2024, beginning next spring.
The Belfast 2024 programme will see the city come alive with ambitious, participative workshops, performances and events and an array of creative projects and initiatives, celebrating our homegrown culture, creativity and the city itself.
The investment was approved by all political parties earlier this autumn and follows extensive engagement with local cultural, community and arts providers over the last 18 months, as well as ongoing public consultation around how best to showcase Belfast’s many diverse and unique cultures.
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.
Seventeen of the major events planned have been specially commissioned following an open call to artists, collectives and organisations earlier this year.
Together, they will provide a welcome financial boost to the cultural sector, supporting jobs and creating new opportunities for residents to enjoy, access and participate in the arts and creativity, encouraging visitors into Belfast to support the local economy, and showcasing the city as a global destination for culture.
Signature events in development 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. Throughout 2024, Eden, together with local project partners, will deliver a series of city centre and neighbourhood interventions across Belfast focussed on greening and growing with local communities.
- 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 the 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 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.
“This is a hugely ambitious and exciting step forward for Belfast,” said Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy. “By investing in the arts in this way, we are creating new opportunities to protect, sustain and develop employment in a sector which 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.”
As part of the Belfast 2024 programme, 16 artists from the council’s creative bursary programme will also work in partnership with creative teams and local communities throughout 2024 to create a lasting legacy of participation and interest in the arts, with projects exploring themes of identity and belonging and showcasing and celebrating new and minority communities, along with elements of traditional culture. British Council NI are also partnering with the council to deliver six international artist residencies, working with communities to deliver co-designed creative interventions across the city’s public realm.
A community-led Creative Citizens scheme is also planned, where local groups can put forward their own ideas for projects linked to the Belfast 2024 themes of People, Place and Planet. Residents will then be asked to vote for their favourite schemes to take place in neighbourhoods right across the city, all to be delivered during 2024.
A music heritage programme is also under development, with grants available for projects celebrating the city’s diverse musical heritage, while innovation and tech will also play a key role, including immersive initiatives focusing on play and digital technology.
Existing city offerings, including St Patrick’s Day, will also be enhanced as part of the Belfast 2024 programme, while local festivals such as the Belfast International Arts Festival, Outburst Arts Festival and Belfast Film Festival will host a series of events and shows as part of the wider offering for visitors and residents.
More details of the Belfast 2024 programme will be announced in due course and be available from belfastcity.gov.uk/belfast2024