The rich cultural and historical heritage of Belfast’s Sailortown will be celebrated on St Patrick’s Day with an eight-hour live streamed event from the iconic St Joseph’s Church featuring music, dancing, storytelling and art.

After years of restoration the ‘sailor’s church’ has been transformed to a community hub that will host the event on March 17 from 2pm to 10pm presented by U105 presenter Johnny Hero.

Terry McKeown, Project Manager of Sailortown Regeneration explained the event will be a landmark day after the efforts of so many past and present residents of the area.

“For years we have been collating, collecting and recording the heritage of Sailortown to keep alive the memories and history, and the future of the area,” she said. 

“The St Patrick’s Day event which is funded by Intercom, The Executive Office and The Community Relations Council is a big turning point for us. It’s about bringing people back to showcase the creative talent that’s in Belfast and celebrating the transformation of the Chapel on the quays to a community hub.

“We would like to express our gratitude to the National Lottery for their ongoing support of Sailortown Regeneration.”

Boasting a mixture of live events and exclusive video presentations the day will mark the re-opening of St Joseph’s.

“When the church was going to be closed in 1999 it really triggered a whole outpouring of emotion and feeling and hundreds of people who used to live here came back down,” Terry explained. 

“They objected vociferously to the church being closed, with the result that there was a long campaign. Then in 2006 we managed to get a lease on it.”

However, the building was in a state of disrepair, and since then there has been a long journey, with always the vision to transform St Joseph’s and the Parochial House into a usable community space but still retaining the character of the buildings that date back to the 1880s.

“Sailortown was devastated when new motorways began in the 60s and 70s,” said Terry.

“But the spirit of the area has always been there. There is a new future with apartments, housing and some of the original buildings. Reopening St Joseph’s is a symbol that we have a population here, some new, and we have those who may have moved away, but their heart is still in Sailortown.”

Among the performances on St Patrick’s Day will be from Dalriada Folk, Anthony Toner, Ferris School of Irish Dancers, Barnbrack, Hugh Jordan, The String Ninjas, The Adventures, Amanda St John and The Lee Hedley Band, with many more on the line-up. There will also be the screening of a video about Sailortown.

Previously known as Sailortown Cultural and Historical Society, which gathered much of the heritage of the area together, Sailortown Regeneration are utilising these Listed Buildings as an Anchor Institution to promote ‘people led’ regeneration and re-establish a thriving community in this city centre waterfront area.

Sailortown is looking forward to the future, with planned developments such as the new Ulster University campus, the City Quays complex and work with the Titanic Foundation Maritime Trust, the Harbour and City Council to develop the Maritime Mile trail into Sailortown.

The group will explore the rich Maritime Heritage of Belfast and plan to host events for ex-seamen and their families to discover why Sailortown’s Seafarers became such a vital part of the Belfast Story.

“The milestone event on St Patrick’s Day will be streamed under the current Covid-19 restrictions,” said Terry. 

“but we want to present St Joseph’s as an iconic space for St Patrick’s Day to show that we will soon be welcoming everyone back in a celebration of our past and a brighter future for our City.”

Learn more at sailortownregeneration.com