Sailortown Regeneration is celebrating after a successful Gathering festival saw the area flooded with residents, former residents and those sampling the historic area of Belfast for the first time.
The festival which took place from June 9th to 12th saw headline acts such as Brian Kennedy amongst a weekend long celebration of the dockside area focused on the rejuvenated St Joseph’s Church, which is now a community hub for Sailortown.
The four-day festival was hailed by organisers as an outstanding success, seeing the area drawing thousands of people to its venues and sampling the history that makes it unique.
“Feedback was hugely positive,” said organiser Terry McKeown, Project Manager of Sailortown Regeneration.
“Former residents were delighted to meet up and rekindle old memories and friendships.
“Local residents loved the vibe and positivity on their streets and especially enjoyed the boxing, bingo and the outdoor music and activities.”
From radio and TV stars Hugo Duncan and Johnny Hero to Joe Lindsay, and historical exhibitions to choral performances there was a packed programme that builds upon the iconic nature of the area, including sessions in the American Bar, the Docker’ Club, Pat’s Bar, the Flying Angel and St Joseph’s.
“Visitors ranged from many who didn’t know the area and were enthralled by the heritage and stories as well as returners who were delighted to see Salortown coming back to life,” said Terry.
“All were extremely impressed with our progress on reopening St Joseph’s, the range and variety of activities and the revival of old Sailortown traditions.”
With a pet pageant, theatre performances, an exhibition of the boxing heritage and several trad music sessions, Terry was delighted to see so many turn out for the festival.
“At Sailortown Regeneration we are over the moon that our Gathering was such a success and was a great tribute to 150 years of St Joseph’s Parish, passing on the baton from past generations to new,” she explained.
“We’ll have more days like this as we bring Belfast’s Maritime Heritage to wider audiences and work along with the Harbour and the Maritime Mile to reanimate the Waterfront.
“The Gathering was backed by the Maritime Trust, Belfast City Council and Arts Council NI, who supported the costs of a huge range of events and activities and look forward to furthering collaboration as we progress to a full restoration of both Church and House.”
Terry added: “The festival was an opportunity for old friends and new to gather together, relive old memories and make new ones as we recreate renowned Sailortown events such as the Blessing of the Pets, St Joseph’s Boxing Club and the lively social scene in Belfast Docks. We’re building on the past to create a future in this iconic waterfront location.”
St Joseph’s has undergone years of restoration to convert the former church to a community hub, accessible for all, and a focus for community events.
Headliner, Brian Kennedy was delighted to be part of the Gathering as an event that he relished being part of especially given the venue of St Joseph’s as a repurposed church and now a community hub.
“Churches, over the centuries, are one of the most special places to sing,” Brian said.
“Architecturally they seem to be built for that reason. The sound quality and the height of the ceilings, lend themselves to performances.
“It was like you’re singing to the saints and angels. Before I even looked at the audience that might be here, already you have an angelic audience waiting for you.
“I think it’s really fitting that St. Joe’s is getting a brand-new breath of life, and part of the breath of life is playing music and singing back into the walls.”
Further events are planned over the coming months, and Sailortown Regeneration looks forward to seeing many come to experience what the historic part of Belfast can offer.
Organisers wish to thank those that gave their time including Belfast City Blues Festival management team; Gerard O’Donnell, (creative designer), Tony McAllister – Patsy Quinn Gym Newington, North Belfast Men’s Shed, Belfast Harbour Police and property team, Maritime Trust staff, and the local community and businesses as well as Hazlett, Adam, Matthew, Lauren, Sinéad, Cliodhna, Conor, Alison and all those who came to Sailortown over the four days.
They also extended thanks for all sponsorship and donations from the American Bar, Ben Madigan, Benny’s Café, the Dockers Club, Direct Wine Shipments, Fortwilliam fruit and veg, Ger O’Donnell photographer, McKenna’s Bar, Wholistic Works and Paul Carlin Hair.