Leading Irish concert promoter Jim Aiken dies in Belfast aged 74

 

One of the country's foremost concert promoters Jim Aiken has died at his home in Belfast after a short illness. He was 74.

Mr Aiken was associated with bringing some of the biggest music artists to Ireland including Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti. Aiken Promotions, the company he founded, remains one of the two biggest promoters in the music industry in Ireland.

He was described last night as a man of "absolute integrity" by family friend Fr Brian D'Arcy who was with him a few hours before he died.

"He was the most honest, sincere, upright man that I've ever had dealings with. He drove a hard bargain but his word was his bond," Fr D'Arcy said.

"He put Ireland on the map, especially at a time during the Troubles when nobody wanted to come here. He went to the homes of the stars in America and convinced them to come to Belfast at a time when the highest number of murders were taking place."

Born in Co Armagh and educated at St Patrick's College, Armagh, Mr Aiken played senior football for the county. He studied for the priesthood at Maynooth before deciding to become a physical education teacher.

He began his career as a concert promoter during the 1960s when he noticed that some of the biggest showband acts of the era such as the Melody Aces and the Clipper Carlton were not playing in Belfast. He went on to bring hundreds of major international acts to Ireland, beginning with Tommy Rowe and later Bill Haley and the Comets.

He rated the Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle in 1985 as his greatest achievement in the music industry.

Mr Aiken was also involved in radio and had substantial shareholdings in FM104 and Cork-based station Red FM.

He was part of the consortium that brought HMV to Ireland. He was a former board member of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Investment Belfast.

Mr Aiken's son, Peter, has been running Aiken Promotions for many years. The company owns the Vicar Street venue in Dublin and is currently promoting outdoor concerts this year for the Arctic Monkeys, Elton John and Diana Ross.

Last night Aiken Promotions issued a statement stating: "Jim's family, who were with him throughout his illness, would like to extend their thanks to all those who have lent their support and sent kind wishes."

Mr Aiken is survived by his wife Anne, children Peter, Claire, Susan, Cathy and Joan, and his 11 grandchildren.

His removal takes place this evening to St Brigid's Church in Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast, at 6.30pm.