St Joseph’s Chapel in Sailortown Belfast came alive for St Patrick’s Day yesterday from 2pm celebrating cultural and historical heritage of the historic area of the city.

After years of restoration St Joseph’s Chapel was transformed to a community hub that hosted the event on March 17 from 2pm to 9pm.

Project manager for Sailortown Regeneration, Terry McKeown said music, dancing, storytelling and art were all featured for the landmark occasion for Sailortown.

“We are delighted to have had such a stellar line-up,” Terry said. 

“The years of campaigning and hard work to open St Joseph’s deserve to be celebrated and the event was a packed day that had audiences joining us from all over the world including America, Canada, Italy and Australia.”

The performances broadcasted live from St Joseph’s across two stages with all the acts introduced by U105 presenter and DJ, Johnny Hero.

Opening the day was Dál Riada Folk, a three-piece band who brought their selection of Irish folk songs, Irish and Scottish reels and jigs and modern folk.

Seamus Lavery of Dalriada Folk said: “Although I was not born in Sailortown I have a long association with St Joseph’s through Conradh na Gaelidhge. 

“In more recent times I have been a supporter of the Save St Joseph’s campaign, playing with the band at fundraisers and a few years ago we played in the church when it was reopened.”

Closing the proceedings was The Lee Hedley Band, whose inspired blues sets have delighted audiences across Europe, the States and North Africa for more than a quarter of a century and light up Sailortown.

Singer songwriters Amanda St John and Anthony Toner were among the line up.

Anthony, who released his song Sailortown in 2008, added: “St Joseph’s is a beautiful building, the atmosphere of churches is always welcoming to musicians, I think – there’s a sense of the music rising up into the rafters that you don’t get in more traditional venues. 

“The history of that part of the city adds another layer of importance to the place, and the exciting plans for its regeneration make it feel multi-layered, the past and the future of Sailortown collide right here, in this space, right now.

“It’s a pleasure to have been part of such a wonderful bill of musicians and dancers and artists, to also see films included in the line up as well.”

Amanda added: “The gig was amazing. I was really missing proper gigs so much. It’s exciting to have full stage sound and lighting set up and to be on the bill with so many other local talents.”

A feature during the day was the presentation of an NVTV film on Sailortown, recounting the history, and the battles to win the lease when the church was deconsecrated through to the ongoing work.

Singer songwriter, Ludwig O’Neill, is no stranger to Sailortown having campaigned to keep the Rotterdam and Pat’s Bar from development, will bring his dark, realistic folk and blues tunes to the party.

He said: “I am very pleased to have been included in this St Patrick’s Day event almost a year since I played there before. 

“Sailortown is in my blood, it’s the heartbeat of North Belfast and over the years has been Belfast’s conduit to the rest of the world. St Joseph’s chapel has long been the spiritual hub of that area.”

This year’s St Patrick’s Day event was being funded by Intercom, The Executive Office and The Community Relations Council.

Terry said it’s a big turning point in the history of the chapel.

She added: “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.”

Also on the bill was musician and songwriter Hugh Jordan who is best known for his hit Road to Donegal about returning Irish-immigrants.

Award winning dancer and musician Edel Ní Churraoin performed with the Sean Nos Dancers including a solo from Meabh Muir.

Other acts who appeared included The String Ninjas, The Adventures, the Ferris School of Irish Dancers, Patrick Ryan, Seamus McPeak and Paul Dean.

St Patrick’s Day Live from Sailortown was streamed live on a variety of social media platforms and available for replay on the Sailortown Regeneration Facebook page or at sailortownregeneration.com

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