11/03/2002

Belfast's Capital of Culture bid is debated at Forum

Northern Ireland’s arts and sports communities were out in force at Belfast City Hall to attend the 'Belfast Forum', an evening of cultural debate hosted by Imagine Belfast 2008.

During the Saturday March 9 event, which was supported by the Arts Council and the Sports Council of Northern Ireland, a celebrity panel engaged in discussion and debate with the audience.

Speaking during the event, author Brian Keenan said: “Belfast is in a unique position to bid for the title of European Capital of Culture. Our persistence, our survival, the brains and raw energy that built this city - all of these things enrich us and give us a firm sense of culture.

"This bid offers the cultural community the opportunity to get together with a collective voice and talk to the city fathers about how this is going to work. The politicians and funders have to recognise that if the European Capital of Culture campaign is to succeed, it is going to cost – and the payback will be better than any financial reward.”

Tom Collins, Chair of Imagine Belfast 2008 said the Belfast Forum had a pivotal role to play as part of Belfast’s European Capital of Culture campaign and the recommendations put forward would have an important bearing on the Imagine Belfast 2008 vision for the future.

He said: "This is a very exciting time for Imagine Belfast 2008, as we approach the date of submission for the bid document and look forward to making the contents of the bid public at the end of March.

"The Imagine Belfast 2008 bid document goes in front of the Northern Ireland Executive on Monday and we look forward to receiving their full endorsement.”

Among the key issues debated were the fact that sports and the arts share the common root of a civilised society and that a viable national stadium for Northern Ireland would have to combine sports with arts and entertainment events.

The Forum highlighted the need to encourage the people of Belfast to believe in their own culture and to celebrate home-grown talent, so that artists would not have to leave Northern Ireland to succeed.

(SP)

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