From 25th to 27th February 2022, a spotlight shone on North Belfast as part of a new weekend festival, Look North! Over the course of the weekend, a large number of activities took place in historically significant venues across this part of the city.
In a collaboration with the John Hewitt Society, many of the events were hosted by members of the North Belfast Heritage Cluster. The Cluster, who are responsible for 15 historically significant buildings in the area, have been working together for over three years on a heritage-led regeneration project called ‘Great Place North Belfast’, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Belfast Charitable Society.
Over the Festival weekend, Cluster members showcased some of these historically significant buildings at specially curated events. Through walking tours and historical lectures, to house tours, graveyard tours, live traditional music and poetry events, the heritage of North Belfast was heard and more importantly celebrated.
Duncan Morrow from University of Ulster, who also hosted a number of the Festival events commented “From St Patrick’s Church and the Quakers to Belfast Orange Hall and the Indian Community Centre. North Belfast is a microcosm of the layers of Belfast”
However, these events weren’t entirely focused on the past with many of them highlighting the future significance of these buildings in the area as it develops. The festival finale event, held on Sunday 27th February, focused entirely on this, with a panel discussion on how North Belfast’s unique heritage assets can be used as a catalyst for regeneration; how heritage, the local community and now the large university can be harnessed in order to create a vibrant space and most importantly act like a gateway into the rest of Belfast.
Paula Reynolds, CEO of Clifton House and spokesperson for Great Place North Belfast explained “In planning these events, as part of the wider Look North festival, we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to experience and be inspired by culture and heritage, and more importantly to have their say in what north Belfast’s future should look like. We feel that this part of the city has reached a critical junction. With the opening of the new Ulster University campus we can now influence how students integrate with the local community and our rich heritage, offering up so many opportunities for change and development.”
Over the course of the whole weekend, the Great Place North Belfast festival events attracted over 280 people across all the Cluster member events, all of which were offered free.
The feedback has been extremely positive, with one attendee commenting “Thanks to @GreatplaceB @cliftonbelfast for great walking tour on Fri of heritage gems in N.Belfast. Really good to see a new part of the city.” Another who traveled to attend tweeted “Thank you #LookNorth @The_JHS @GreatplaceB @UlsterUni for a great @northbelfast100 festival … I absolutely loved it. Well worth coming over specially from Wales.”