Van Morrison opens Belfast festival


IN A collaboration with Tourism Ireland, music legend Van Morrison opened this year’s Belfast Arts Festival with a show at the city’s Europa hotel on Saturday night and will perform again at the same venue towards the end of the festival.

The Morrison shows were heavily promoted by Tourism Ireland in Europe and the US over social networking sites as part of a global tourism push for the city.

The Belfast Festival wanted something special to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year and got it from a man whose musical brilliance is rooted in the city. Morrison’s record label, EMI, and Tourism Ireland have been promoting the shows and the musician’s new album, Born To Sing: No Plan B, under the “Belfast is Rocking” slogan. Some 650,000 fans and followers of Tourism Ireland on Facebook and Twitter have been in with a chance to win a trip to see Morrison perform.

Between adverts on the music streaming service Spotify, radio exposure and print promotion all around the world, Tourism Ireland is hoping Morrison’s undisputed musical genius and international appeal will help to reposition Belfast as a modern and vibrant centre of musical excellence. Other local acts including Snow Patrol, Dave Holmes and Two Door Cinema Club have also enjoyed international success in recent years.

“Van Morrison is a tremendous ambassador for the music scene in Belfast and his performances during this year’s Belfast Festival at Queens will mark yet another high point in this year of major events for Northern Ireland,” said Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland’s chief executive.

Saturday night’s Morrison show was ecstatically received by the Europa audience and it was clear that many in attendance had travelled a long distance for this special “home” gig. His rendition of Moondance on the night was judged to be one of his best.

The Belfast Arts Festival, which runs until November 4th, also features performances from The Kinks’ Ray Davies, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Buena Vista Social Club.

In his most recent interview, Morrison said the east Belfast area where he grew up remains “the source” of his work. “I remember going to other places and feeling really homesick and I thought, ‘I need to go back’. I went back and went up to Orangefield and thought, ‘yeah, this is my source’. My source is not somewhere else. This is it; my source is here.”

Morrison also revealed that he is still a regular visitor to Hyndford Street, the street on which he grew up, and environs.