Northern Ireland has a rich musical legacy, boasting Van Morrison, Divine Comedy and Two Door Cinema Club as just some of the artists with roots in the country.
Belfast's cultural community are working hard to preserve and build on this heritage, and an organisation leading the charge is Belfast’s Oh Yeah Music Centre. Opened in 2007 by a group of volunteers under the mantra ‘Open Doors To Music Potential’, Oh Yeah Music has since become the nerve centre of Belfast’s music scene. Housing a live music venue, recording studio, rehearsal rooms and a museum space, the centre runs a series of regular programmes that offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to bring new music to eager audiences.
Below, watch an introduction to the venue, narrated by music journalist, broadcaster and co-founder Stuart Bailie.
Northern Ireland Music Prize
As part of Oh Yeah’s mission to promote new talent across the country, it produces the annual Northern Ireland Music Prize, for which more than 70 judges nominate 12 albums. There are no rules on age or genre, and as a result the final selections offer an authentic and inclusive reflection of contemporary Northern Irish music. The winner of the 2016 Northern Ireland Music Prize was Ciaran Lavery, a young singer-songwriter whose eclectic style and emotive vocals make him a valuable addition to Oh Yeah’s hall of fame.
Watch the highlights of last year’s prize in the video below.
Including people of all ages
Oh Yeah Music Centre has also developed a number of projects aimed at encouraging specific age groups to make music. One such initiative, ‘Your Teenage National Anthem’, invited people who were teenagers during the late 1970s and early 1980s to respond to themes from Colin Bateman’s play, National Anthem. Highlights of the project can be found in the video below.
Following on from the success of this project, Oh Yeah Music Centre developed a series of workshops and outreach initiatives designed to inspire people aged 70–90 to get involved in making music.
Inspiring younger generations
For the younger generation, Oh Yeah Music Centre has set up ‘Volume Control’, an enterprise encouraging 14–19-year-olds to start their own music initiative. Each year, ‘Volume Control’ provides ten aspiring music professionals with a mentoring service along with a workspace. They are offered the chance to promote, organise and run events across Northern Ireland, and in doing so, prepare themselves for a career in the music or events industry.
In the video above, watch the latest ‘Volume Control’ cohort taking part in a city-swap gig with the Nerve Centre, an arts centre in Derry.
As part of its work to support and nurture emerging talent, Oh Yeah Music Centre runs ‘Scratch My Progress’. The scheme, which celebrated its fifth birthday in 2016, brings together a group of musicians each year to take part in a ten-month mentoring programme. Participants are offered training in everything from singing to copyright, and stagecraft to songwriting, and have the opportunity to meet with industry professionals along the way.
Listen to the work of previous participants in the programme via the link below.
Oh Yeah Music Centre firmly believes that music is ‘a catalyst that changes lives for the better’ and is a keen contributor to the debate around issues facing the music industry and society more broadly. In March 2016 it launched the latest edition of the Women’s Work Festival, a series of performances by female musicians. This day-long festival aimed to raise awareness of gender inequality among music professionals, featuring artists such as acclaimed DJ Annie Nightingale, who in 1970 became the first ever female DJ on one of the UK’s most popular stations, BBC Radio 1.
Above, watch an interview with Nightingale with highlights of the opening night performance.
Oh Yeah Music Centre’s universal approach ensures that people of all ages can feel capable of contributing to the Belfast music scene, marking it out as a truly singular institution vital to the ongoing growth of music in Northern Ireland.