Belfast has been awarded the title UNESCO City of Music, making the Northern Irish capital the third UK location to be honoured with the accolade, following in the footsteps of Liverpool and Glasgow. 

The status recognises towns with significant musical heritage, venues capable of hosting festivals and concerts at national and international level, and a focus on musical education. There must also be clear evidence that all music genres are supported. 

As a result of the successful bid, a programme of high-profile events is being promised, alongside investment to improve and expand existing infrastructure. The bid was part of a wider plan created by Belfast Council based on a survey of 20,000 residents. Music was a recurring theme in the responses. 

“Belfast is proud of its music culture. Creativity and resilience are in the very fabric of our city and our people. Last April, we launched a ten-year cultural strategy which will see a Year of Culture in 2024. The UNESCO accolade is the perfect way to kickstart these plans, much of which revolves around music,” said Councillor Kate Nicholl, Lord Mayor of Belfast. 

A number of prominent people from the city’s music industry were involved in the bid, including Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Emmy-nominated composer, Hannah Peel. Both have now been made official Belfast Music patrons. 

“Belfast’s heart beats fervidly with music,” said Lightbody. “I’ve watched, in these last 25 years of relative peace, the music scene grow and then thrive and now burst at the seams with fearless and limitless talent.”

DJ Mag visited Belfast in September for the return of AVA Festival, the city’s biggest electronic music showcase. Free the Night, a campaign lobbying for more relaxed licensing laws, better support for clubs and the night-time economy in Northern Ireland, continues to push for change to the country’s infamously prohibitive regulations relating to venue opening times and the sale of alcohol. Meanwhile, last month DJ and producer Marion Hawkes opened a new record store, Sound Advice, in a bid to better serve Belfast’s nascent dance community.