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Healthcare and other frontline workers to receive Freedom of the City

Date: 23 Aug 2022

Aerial view of Belfast city centre, showing City Hall and surrounding buildings.

Those who worked on the frontline during Covid-19 will receive the Freedom of the City at a special event in Belfast Waterfront this Thursday 25 August.

Health and social care staff, along with representatives from key public and frontline services and the community and voluntary sector, will be among those honoured, following a motion agreed by Belfast City Council in May 2020.

Over 1,800 key workers have been invited to attend The Belfast Mixtape – Songs from Lockdown, an evening of personal reflections and unique musical performances, recognising the contribution of all those who worked tirelessly to support vulnerable citizens.

A special meeting of Council will also be held on Thursday at 4pm to mark the occasion.

Hosted by presenter Connor Phillips, The Belfast Mixtape – Songs from Lockdown will feature performances by Ryan McMullan, Foy Vance, Brooke Scullion, Saint Sister, the Open Arts Community Choir, the Belfast Trust Here4U staff choir and the Ulster Orchestra, and include a short dedication ceremony, led by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tina Black. 

The event will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle and BBC Sounds on Friday 25 August, from 7.30pm-9.30pm. It will also be televised on BBC NI and BBC iPlayer later this autumn.

The individual sacrifices of those working on the frontline, and the critical role music played in supporting them, will be the central themes of the evening, organised in partnership with BBC NI and Open Arts.

Guests were invited to nominate songs which helped them carry out essential duties, and their selections have been incorporated into the event setlist to create a mixtape of sounds, both upbeat and reflective. They include a specially arranged version of David Holmes’ remix of ‘Belfast’ by Orbital, performed live on stage by the Ulster Orchestra.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tina Black said: “This is a unique Freedom of the City, which looks back at efforts of those workers who put their own concerns to one side to help care for others during very difficult days for our city.

“It’s a chance for all of us to say thanks to those staff for their selfless courage and compassion, a message which will be especially poignant for those personally impacted by loss during the pandemic, and those whose lives have been changed.

“In asking frontline workers how they wanted to mark their Freedom award, music was a common theme – in particular, the value that an uplifting song or reflective piece of music can have in really difficult times.

“The Belfast Mixtape – Songs from Lockdown has taken inspiration from that feedback, and will use music and song to showcase personal stories and provide a chance to reflect and remember, while also demonstrating the spirit of resilience evident in all those who share in this Freedom of the City honour.”

Adam Smyth, Interim Director BBC Northern Ireland, said:

“We are pleased to be providing a media platform on BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle and BBC Northern Ireland TV to share this event, hosted by Connor Phillips, with a wider audience in the coming weeks.

“It promises to be an important and memorable evening of music and reflection, recognising the great work of many people during the height of the pandemic in lockdown.”

The audience for The Belfast Mixtape – Songs from Lockdown has been drawn from a range of organisations.

It includes staff from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, NI Ambulance Service, Public Health Agency, NI Fire and Rescue Service, Belfast City Council, NI Civil Service and the Education Authority, as well as community pharmacists, health and social care staff who travelled to Belfast as part of their work, and those working in the independent retail and social care sectors.  

During the event, ICU nurse Lyndsey Adamson, who served as Lead Nurse for the former Nightingale Hospital, will receive the Freedom of the City on behalf of all those attending.

She will be presented with a specially designed artwork consisting of two hands touching, representing the crucial role of hands during the pandemic – to heal, comfort and help. 

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