The biggest public space in the Cathedral Quarter, Writers’ Square has been to the fore in recent weeks as crowds have returned, under strictly managed conditions, to live events. Organisers of the MELA Festival, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Culture Night have all used Writers’ Square as the central location for the events.

Anne McReynolds, Chair of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, has urged the Executive to ensure that Writers’ Square remains in public use.

“In the last month we have seen the resurgence of Cathedral Quarter as a live destination venue and Writers’ Square has been right at its heart. Even with a reduced capacity and under carefully managed conditions, it has been uplifting to see people embracing the spirit of Belfast and attending live events again.

“There is currently a threat to the future use of Writers’ Square as a public space due to the plans of developers behind the Tribeca project. The public space is currently owned by the Dept for Communities and we want the Minister to preserve the unique balance that exists in this part of Belfast. We have written to the Minister to ask that any future development brief gives appropriate weight to the cultural and artistic heritage of the Cathedral Quarter.”

Sean Kelly, the director of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival said

‘The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee returned to Writers’ Square after a gap of several years and we were reminded of what a vital social space it is for the city. Over 11 days, thousands of festival attendees enjoyed shows by artists including Sharon Shannon, Kila, Bronagh Gallagher, Foy Vance and Lisa Hannigan and the Square, with the beautiful backdrop of St Anne’s Cathedral, proved the perfect setting for our first festival in 18 months.

“To lose Writers’ Square at a time when the city needs open spaces more than ever to our mind constitutes an act of cultural vandalism and one which we will oppose vociferously.”

Director of the Cathedral Quarter Trust and Culture Night Belfast, Susan Picken, stressed the need for Writers’ Square to be protected as a publicly owned and accessible space.

“We had an amazing few days with CNB Presents The Ogham Grove over the weekend, with more than 8,000 visitors. Only this space could have accommodated both the spectacular large-scale art installation and the crowds who came to celebrate art and culture in our city. I am really worried that if a commercial office block is permitted to significantly reduce the size of Writers’ Square it will mean the Square is not useable for the exciting cultural events our city centre desperately needs. In effect this vital public space will be lost to private development and there will be a permanent impact on St Anne’s Cathedral and on the cultural life of the city.

“There is a growing recognition that a healthy city requires public access to safe, open space. Writers’ Square is alive, it helps to foster positive mental health in Belfast and we need to protect and foster that. We want to build on the success of this year and into the future and Writer’s Square will be critical to our future plans.”

Creative Lighting: Opportunity to Tender

Destination Cathedral Quarter BID (“CQ BID”) invites tenders from organisations or a collective of organisations, for the design, supply and installation of creative lighting in the Cathedral Quarter area from September 2021 to enhance the Cathedral Quarter experience and planned campaign.

The successful Tenderer will be required to deliver the installations within the identified key zone, working with the Cathedral Quarter BID Team. They will also be required to engage with the providers of the existing lighting and work together where appropriate.

Click here to download tender documentation.


Belfast City Council High Growth Programme

Belfast City Council’s High Growth Programme supports businesses with high growth potential.

This programme includes a series of skills development workshops, tailored business mentoring and opportunities for networking.

Areas the programme can support your business with include:

  • business planning, improvement, and efficiency
  • market research and analysis of emerging market opportunities
  • brand development and PR
  • people and human resource management – including hiring new staff and team troubleshooting
  • product or process development and commercialisation
  • sales development
  • securing finance and financial planning
  • exporting and local trade development

Programme details
If your application for a place on the High Growth Programme is successful, you will:

  • attend a series of online skills development workshops where the focus will be on providing you with both the skills and the confidence to overcome barriers to growth and to realise the full potential of your business
  • be allocated an experienced business mentor who will provide one-to-one support to you to plan for the future and to begin to take the steps that you need to take to grow your business
  • network with and learn from other like-minded entrepreneurs who are committed to growing their businesses locally, nationally and internationally
  • learn from the experiences of highly successful business people who will share the highs and lows of their entrepreneurial journeys with you

Due to ongoing restrictions relating to travel and social interaction, all aspects of the programme will be provided virtually using Zoom software.

To be eligible for the programme, your business must:

  • be based in the Belfast City Council area
  • employ less than 50 people
  • be trading for between 6 – 60 months
  • have products / services that offer significant growth potential, including outside NI
  • have the potential to create at least two new jobs over the next 12 months
  • not be an Invest NI client (or have permission from your Client Executive to participate)

How to apply
To be considered for a place on the programme, you should register on the Belfast City Council website.

When completing the online business registration form, type ‘High Growth Business Programme’ when you are asked to ‘specify in detail how we can support your business’.

Belfast City Council will then liaise directly with you to ensure that you are eligible to apply and to assess your priority support needs in this field.

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Thursday 30 September 2021.

This project is part-funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Register for the High Growth Programme


This September get ready to ‘come on in and meet up’ at Belfast City Gardens. Located at Belfast City Hall and Cathedral Gardens (bedside St Anne’s Cathedral) these unique pop up experiences aim to encourage visitors to enjoy some of the city’s unique spaces and soak up the vibrant atmosphere created by the events and festivals taking place across the city at this time.

Supported by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs): Belfast One, Cathedral Quarter and Belfast City Council, Belfast City Gardens will make use of public spaces to encourage people to come into the city centre, grab a takeaway coffee from a local cafe and meet up with friends and family, before moving on to enjoy their city centre experience.

Visitors to Belfast City Gardens will enjoy picnic tables at Cathedral Gardens, decorative tree wraps and themed backdrops for a range of pop up family entertainment and live music.

Helping to launch Belfast City Gardens, Lord Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl said:
“It’s great to see another project that celebrates and enhances our outdoor spaces as we encourage people to come on in to the city centre this festival season. Transforming under-used public spaces into vibrant and diverse cultural destinations is a key priority in our 10 year cultural strategy for the city, and so important as we continue to move forwards on our Covid recovery journey. Belfast City Gardens reflects the values and goals of this vision and gives just a taste of how these important spaces can provide an opportunity to soak up our vibrant city atmosphere and connect with others.”

Damien Corr, from Cathedral Quarter BID, added:
“Belfast City Gardens is a great way for visitors to the interact with the city’s places and spaces in a very different way. It’s also a fantastic way to enjoy the many events and festivals taking place in the city throughout September. Working with our partners Belfast One BID and Belfast City Council we would encourage visitors to enjoy the Cathedral Gardens experience along with the pop up family fun activities and music on offer.”

Kathleen McBride, from Belfast One BID, commented:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Cathedral Quarter BID and Belfast City Council on Belfast City Gardens. What an amazing opportunity for visitors to enjoy the grounds of City Hall in such a unique way. We hope it encourages people to come in, grab a coffee, meet up with friends and family, enjoy an unique pop-up experience as well as take in the vibrancy of the city this September.”

Belfast One BID and Cathedral Quarter BID on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.

Mallon to invest £10 million in transformation of new train station for York Street

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a £10 million investment project that will see the construction of a new train station at York Street, Belfast.

Having recently secured planning permission, this exciting regeneration project will be the next station to be transformed into a high-quality sustainable transport hub, to attract more people to make public transport their first choice for greener and healthier travel.

Announcing the funding Minister Mallon said:

“I am committed to delivering sustainable infrastructure that will transform communities, improve lives and help tackle the climate crisis. Key to that commitment is ensuring we have a functioning and thriving public transport network and that is why I want to invest in our infrastructure and our rail infrastructure in particular, which will deliver for local people and visitors now and well into the future.

“Last year I launched a public consultation on proposals to redevelop this new train station at York Street. Following the completion of the consultation process, and the subsequent receipt of planning approval, I am delighted to confirm that this £10million project can move toward construction phase.

“Our public transport network is vital in our recovery from Covid-19 both economically and socially. Pre-covid the current facility was one of the busiest train stations in Northern Ireland. With the move of Ulster University to this part of Belfast, it is expected this will grow further with improved facilities, including better links to walking and cycling options in the area, making it even easier for people to choose sustainable travel as their smarter travel mode.”

The Minister added:

“As well as improving connectivity and making public transport a more attractive offering the redevelopment of the station will also help to secure jobs in the local construction industry. I look forward to seeing work commence later this year and the completion of the new station in 2023.”

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive said:

“This is really good news for the city. It will provide better connectivity for everyone particularly with the opening of the new Ulster University campus this year and the planned City Quays development.

“Passengers will enjoy modern, more accessible amenities including a new Changing Places facility and better links to walking and cycling options with more access to cycle parking and local cycle networks. A new footbridge will link to wider platforms and new canopies.

“The external design will boast an enhanced station layout with high quality landscaping and provision of a public realm area at the front of the station.

“We would like to thank the Minister and her department for the essential funding to deliver this vital infrastructure scheme which will significantly shape the future of this area. It will provide the people of North Belfast with connections that can improve the area’s liveability and the community’s employability. We will continue to work with all our stakeholders as the development progresses”, Chris concluded.

Festival Gets Ready To Celebrate Belfast’s Whiskey Heritage

The 3rd Belfast Whiskey Week (Friday 23rd July – Saturday 31st July), Ireland’s largest Whiskey Festival, sponsored by Irish Whiskey App, Willis Insurance and Hastings Hotel Group, is getting ready to welcome Whiskey enthusiasts from home and around the world to a 9-day programme featuring access to limited in person events and a virtual interactive experience celebrating Belfast’s Whiskey legacy and production.

Developed by Belfast-based businessman Paul Kane, Belfast Whiskey Week is a community led initiative driven by a group of enthusiasts from Belfast Whiskey Club. It was created as a platform for Belfast to reclaim its Whiskey heritage, celebrate its distilling history as well as look forward to the exciting innovations and growth within the region.

With last year’s festival adapting to meet the challenges of the pandemic, the festival has grown a global following as Whiskey enthusiasts sought for ways to remain connected during the lockdowns via digital platforms.

Following covid guidelines and restrictions, this year’s festival will provide limited in person access to a range of tasting events including a gala dinner featuring 9 local Whiskies at The Europa Hotel on Friday 23rd July. Using the latest technology, the entire festival will be a virtual and digitally interactive experience. Broadcasting from multiple iconic venues across Belfast providing access to content including 85+ live tastings, 50+entertainment events including local comedians, musicians, artists and DJs, 10+ Whiskey Q&A and debate sessions, access to distilleries and worldwide Whiskey brands, food pairings, cocktail making plus the chance to purchase specially designed festival bottles.

Looking forward to Belfast Whiskey Week, festival organiser Paul Kane said:

“We are delighted to announce the 3rd Belfast Whiskey Week, Ireland’s largest Whiskey Festival.  It is a must attend event for those with an interest and taste for all things Whiskey. We are delighted to provide limited in-person participation this year which will follow covid safety guidelines. We will continue to connect with our audiences at home and around the world by providing access to a virtual and digitally interactive experience from noon to midnight, spanning 9 consecutive days, by using the latest technology.  Participants can hone their tastes, experiment with new flavors as well as interact online with fellow enthusiasts.”

Paul further added:

“We very much thank all our sponsors, partners and supporters, with their support we can help showcase Belfast’s fantastic Whiskey Heritage and make Belfast a must visit city for enthusiasts from across the world in the years ahead.”

Prices for Belfast Whiskey Week passes range from £15-£150, are available across a variety of levels including introduction, intermediate, masterclass and include tasting boxes.  For details visit www.belfastwhiskeyweek.com or follow Belfast Whiskey Week on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube #bww and #irishwhiskeyfest.

Culture Night Belfast Seeks Creative Lead

Culture Night Belfast is evolving.

The last 15+ months have presented an opportunity to reflect upon the event, what it stands for, what works and what doesn’t, and to think about how it moves forward in the coming years.

Historically, Culture Night has been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that has previously attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. Following an extensive review, however, this reimagining, combined with the continuing impact of COVID-19, have directed us to radically rethink how we present ourselves in 2021, ahead of launching a new vision for the event in 2022.

Now entering its thirteenth year, Culture Night Belfast (CNB) is seeking to commission a Creative Lead/Collective to conceptualise and deliver an outdoor artwork/cultural experience to engage visitors to the Cathedral Quarter over the course of the weekend 17th – 19th September 2021.

CNB is looking for a creative response which considers, but is not constrained by, the theme of The City Garden. The concept of The City Garden has developed out of our collective experiences of the last year and the crucial role our gardens and shared outdoor spaces have played in our lives. The City Garden aligns with a number of key themes in A City Imagining, Belfast City Council’s Cultural Strategy 2020 – 2030, and also reflects an increasing focus on environmental sustainability and on the need for more green and shared spaces in the city.

Deadline for proposals: Wednesday 30th June 12pm by email to s.picken@cqtrust.org

Download the full brief here.

Roof repairs fund for listed buildings opens

A £200,000 fund aimed at supporting roof repairs to listed buildings is now open.

Roof repairs fund for listed buildings opens

Owners can avail of £5,000 for repair works associated with roofs including chimneys and gutters while £10,000 is available for the repair of thatched roofs.

This is part of a £350,000 Executive package of support being provided to the built heritage sector this year.

 Roof repairs fund for listed buildings opens

Launching the fund, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said:

“Our listed buildings are a precious resource which provide character to our place and remind us of our shared history. It is important that we work together to ensure that they are maintained for the future and that the full potential they hold for the present is realised.

“The fund has been designed to allow a swift processing of applications to deliver support quickly to where it is needed.  The focus on roofs reflects an increase in the number of buildings on the Heritage at Risk register over recent years. In many cases roof problems have been identified as the main cause of decay.

“I would encourage eligible building owners to apply by the deadline of 21 June, 2021.”

All applications will be marked relative to clear criteria and those scoring highest will be supported, subject to their compliance with the scheme.

Further information on how to apply is available here

Belfast Exposed Reopen with Three Showstopper Exhibitions

After being closed for most of last year, Belfast Exposed reopens the doors to the public with a visual feast of three showstopping exhibitions that promise to both excite and challenge audiences.

The three exhibitions – Aeon, A Lightness of Touch and Street View: Yan Wang Preston – celebrate both international and local artists. Rickli’s and Preston’s work are underpinned by a concern and reverence for the environment and affirms Belfast Exposed’s commitment to show work that focuses on, and highlights, environment issues. Belfast Exposed, despite the covid-19 pandemic and multiple lockdowns, has spent the last year supporting and promoting new talent and the exhibition ‘A Lightness of Touch’ is a continuation of that commitment and essential work for the development of the photographic and art infrastructure of Northern Ireland.

Gallery 1: AEON – Marcel Rickli
Gallery 2: A LIGHTNESS OF TOUCH – MFA Photography Graduates
3rd June – 17th July

‘Aeon’, is a solo exhibition by Swiss international photographer and artist Marcel Rickli, who combines conceptual and documentary photography that explores radioactive waste repositories and questions how they will affect humanity for future generations. In Rickli’s investigations he examines the use of signs, symbols and language as a communicator capable of warning of the dangers of these sites for thousands of years to come. The exhibition is a striking representation of these inquiries with high visual content in large scale photography and sculptural elements enhanced by a subtle sound installation.

A Lightness of Touch
Celebrating photography’s rising stars of the future, ‘A Lightness of Touch’, is the end-of-year degree show for the MFA Photography graduates at Ulster University, which connects a broad range of thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The content is far-reaching and diverse with works by national and international artists. What bind the artists of this show together is not the subject of their work, but their sensitive and tender approach towards capturing their subjects; a particular lightness of touch.

Street View: Yan Wang Preston
Yan Wang Preston is an award-winning practicing artist whose exhibition on Street View is a combination of renowned bodies of work – ‘Hé – River Together’, ‘Mother River’ and ‘Forest’. These photographic based works have been made over the past 10 years and includes images, performance art, videos and books. Presented in a multi-media digital format, audiences will get a holistic view of the artist practice investigating relationships between people and place with long-term interests in contested definitions, myths, politics and ideologies of nature incontemporary societies. They are stunning examples of endurance photography which are as compelling as they are ambitious. A prime example of this is ‘Mother River’, on one level anmodern-day adventure, where the photographer faced hazards from altitude sickness to mudslides. Preston used a large-format field camera, which produces huge negatives, offering images with astonishing detail and resolution. The images generated from the process form the most systematic photographic documentation of the Yangtze River made by one person since 1842.

“Supporting emerging talent is ever more important as we ease out of Lockdown and each and every one of these MFA graduates demonstrates talent in their respective genres. Within the show, there is evidence of a very human approach that deals with topics that are considered challenging. The works are profound with a tenderness not often seen in group shows and the sensitivity embraces the audiences into new ways of seeing.” – Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive, Belfast Exposed.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Belfast Exposed’s galleries will operate with a one-way system, and based on government guidelines, a maximum number of people will be allowed in the gallery at any given time. Visitors to the gallery can expect a meeter-and-greeter to instruct them through the gallery spaces and inform them about the exhibitions on show.

Arts Council Survey will evaluate impact of Emergency Funding on Sector

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is asking artists and organisations that received emergency funding in the last 12 months to complete a short online survey to evaluate its impact on the sector.

With the support of the Department for Communities, the Arts Council has invested over £26m over the past year to support artist and arts organisations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the crisis, over 3,000 grants were awarded to artists and arts organisations including arts venues, galleries, and community arts groups, as well as individual practitioners and freelance workers, whose work had been cancelled or postponed as a result of the pandemic.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development and Partnerships, commented:

“We are acutely aware of the need to monitor the impact of this funding, with a view to gathering firm evidence to support a case for future investment in the sector.”

“With this in mind, we are asking all organisations and individual artists in receipt of funding under one of our emergency COVID-19 programmes to complete a short on-line survey. It’s vital that we hear directly from artists and arts organisations if we are to build a full picture on the current stability of the sector.”

The online survey is being managed independently on behalf of the Arts Council by Social Market Research, a Northern Ireland based company with over 20 years’ experience of delivering high quality research services, locally.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete.  Artists and arts organisations in receipt of emergency funding will receive a unique link to the survey via a dedicated e-mail from Social Market Research inviting them to complete the survey.

Respondents have until the 31 May to complete their survey.

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