Belfast Prepares For Return Of St Patrick's Day

Belfast's St Patrick's Day celebrations will this year feature an extended festival that will include a trad trail, free concert and colourful carnival pageant. The new look programme, which will build on the success of last year's approach, will see Custom House Square host a free concert on Thursday 16 March, organised by The Duncairn Arts Centre. Headlined by award-winning singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan, the family-friendly, alcohol-free event will also see performances by trad supergroup Jiggy who mix Irish traditional music, world rhythms and cutting-edge dance grooves, ethnic dance group Shamrock Bhangra and internationally acclaimed folk singer David Keenan. There will be free face painting, circus performers, and balloon artists and buskers to keep little ones entertained, as well as a selection of food vendors on site. And on St Patrick's Day (17 March) the annual parade organised by Beat Carnival will snake its way through the city centre – a colourful pageant of costumes, music, dance, circus and theatrical performances. Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Tina Black said: "I am so looking forward to everything that's in store for St Patrick's Day this year; the city is going to be buzzing. As a UNESCO City of Music, not surprisingly music will be at the heart of our celebrations; with musicians from across the island of Ireland taking part in Féile's trad trail in venues across the city. And our St Patrick's Eve concert looks set to be a fantastic evening and one that all the family can enjoy. "I'm really excited about leading the St Patrick's Day parade and seeing the city come alive with colour and performances. The parade is always a huge hit with hundreds of people lining the route and soaking up the atmosphere. I would encourage everyone to come and join in the fun and be part of this vibrant celebration of our city." The theme of this year's parade is ‘Voices of Belfast' and it will celebrate Belfast's vibrant musical heritage including folk, disco, punk and electronic. The parade will leave City Hall at 1.30pm on Friday 17 March, through Chichester Street, Victoria Street, High Street, Castle Place, Donegall Place and back to City Hall. David Boyd, Beat Carnival Director said: "We're working on a ‘Voices of Belfast' cavalcade to present colourful pictures of our rich musical life. Sounds of ancient horns will lead the parade, followed by lively trad from our folk and percussion community. Of course we need some disco for dancing on the street and there'll also be a punk choir. Ending the parade, our DJ will be mixing it up on the techno float with dance club beats and Asian grooves, and there'll be the skirl of pipes and drums in the air as we welcome over 150 world-wide members of the Lions Clubs International to our city. It's shaping up to be a fantastic spectacle with lots to see and hear." Ray Giffen, Creative Director of the Duncairn added: "The Duncairn team is delighted to be invited back to curate this special St Patrick's event for the city. We look forward to another inclusive, family-focused celebration of our artists, music, communities and diversity." Féile's Trad Trail will take place from March 10-19 in venues across Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter and city centre. Kevin Gamble, Director at Féile an Phobail said: "Féile an Phobail is delighted to once again be involved in supporting the animation of the city in the lead up to and during St Patricks Day. The Féile Trad trail will bring an eclectic mix of Irish music sessions to venues and spaces right across the city, showcasing the very best of local Irish traditional musicians and highlighting the rich Irish cultural heritage of traditional music in Belfast." St George's Market is also getting in on the craic this year with a St Patrick's Day themed market on Friday 17 March with live traditional Irish music performances from members of Ards Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann; and 2 Royal Avenue will host a free concert by Celtic Storm on Saturday 18 March. Meanwhile community groups from across the city are participating in an oral history project delivered by MayWe Events which will culminate in an oral histories showcase at 2 Royal Avenue during March. Tickets for the free concert at Custom House Square on Thursday 16 March will be available via Visit Belfast's website from Monday 6 March at 10am. For more info on the full programme of St Patrick's Day events including ticketing info, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/stpatricks

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