Trad for it


IT’S the town that produced The Smiths, New Order, Joy Division, Oasis and the Stone Roses so when the music scene in Manchester is referenced it’s usually in the context of rock and indie music.

But away from the wailing guitars and stadium anthems the famous city has a world class traditional Irish music scene, fostered by Irish immigrants of the 1950s and faithfully kept alive by their sons and daughters.

This scene has produced no little amount of talent and the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts devoted last weekend’s City of Traditions, Belfast Manchester and Friends festival to celebrating this influence.

It’s fair to say the sold out weekend of events wouldn’t have happened without the input of world class musician Mike McGoldrick, who not only performed the headline gig on Saturday night but turned up on Sunday morning to lead a workshop in the hope of inspiring the next generation of traditional musicians.

Taking five minutes from his busy schedule, Mike said the trad scene in his home town was as strong as ever and he and his peers were serious about developing the next generation of musicians.

“There’s five of us over from Manchester for the gig and our parents or grandparents are Irish so I suppose it’s through them that we keep the tradition going. 

“When they came to Manchester in the 1950s it was important to them to keep their culture - whether that was through Gaelic football or music or whatever - so we were raised in that environment.

“I grew up in England and went to school in England and grew up loving The Smiths and loving Oasis and loving what people in England loved like football. But with all that you still had those very strong Irish roots and we have always been interested in maintaining those so me and my friends went to music classes every week as children. When we got to 15 and 16 we started little bands and had gigs in pubs and clubs that’s how we got to where we are.”

Mike has appeared on stage with Mark Knopfler and is a former Instrumentalist of the Year winner at the BBC Folk Awards so his legacy is secured. But having grown up in a community were the continuity of traditional music is so important, it is no surprise Mike didn’t come to Belfast on his own.

“We were talking two years ago about doing something between the cities and bringing kids over from Manchester so we could inspire them. 

“We have ten students over with us and today and there has been workshops with musicians from Belfast so they have been learning new tunes and making new friends who they will meet up with when they go to festivals. The connections will just build from there.”

Mike says he has no concerns about the future. 

“The Manchester trad scene is really healthy. Emma (Sweeney) and Fiona (Brown) and Angela (Durcan) who are over with me to perform are teaching up to three times a week back home. Angela teaches traditional music in Manchester to over 150 kids as well as going into primary schools where she teaches banjo, uilleann pipes, flute and concertina. A lot of these kids have no Irish background and are from places like Afghanistan and Africa and all over Europe and they are really talented. It’s brilliant.”

Fostering links between the two cities is important, says Mike.

“Belfast is brilliant. I first came here when I was 18. I had been working in Germany and met John McSherry and we played the same music and were inspired by the same people like the Bothy Band, and Planxty, and the piper Paddy Keane and the flute player Matt Molloy. When I first heard John playing we quickly locked into each other’s style and he asked me if I came to Ireland much and I told him about my summer trips to relatives in rural Mayo and Galway so he invited me to Belfast.

“It was 88/89 before I got here and I’ll never forget it because before I came I new a lot of tunes and thought I was a good player but I remember leaving Belfast thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know any tunes!’. What I heard here was different and I remember buying a lot of CDs so I could learn these new tunes so when I came back to Madden’s and Kelly’s and all these session haunts I would know what I was doing. 

“Now 25 years later I’m here in this beautiful centre that’s keeping the tradition going and you’ve 10 kids from Manchester in there playing with 50 kids from from Belfast so what more could you ask for?”

Part-time Post

Arts Outreach Officer

174 Trust

Closing date:  25 Feb 2016

The post holder will work on a Freelance basis reporting to the Arts Manager, coordinating the implementation of the Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts outreach and engagement programme.

The job details are fully laid out in the job description, along with the person speciation, please email for copy.

We invite CV's detailing how the candidate meets all the criteria on the specification, including examples of specific experience in similar roles.

We reserve the right to shortlist only those who meet all the essential criteria, and if need be, to use the desirable criteria to assist with shortlisting also.

CV's to be returned by 12 noon on Thursday 25 February 2016.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview during the week of 29 February and will be notified by email on Friday 26 2016.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funds this post for an initial 3-year period.

Job Information

Fixed term

Part time

2016 programme

We have once again pulled out all the stops to put together another outstanding programme of concerts, workshops, classes and courses for 2016 here at The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts.  This years programme has been designed to showcase the very best of local, national and international talent here in the heart of North Belfast.  We will continue this year with our policy of offering affordable access to high quality arts for all in this wonderful city. Where possible all our live events will be priced between £10 - £15 and classes/courses at £25 with a limited number of free places also available. ( for info on free places give us a call on 90 747114 or email us at

Our new series of classes will begin the week of Monday 1st February. Full details of all classes and how to register will be available from Monday 4th January via the website or by using the contact details above.

Classes will include: Fiddle Making, Print Making, Arts and Crafts, Photography, Painting and Drawing, Sewing and Embroidery, Creative Writing, Irish language for beginners level 2 and Intermediate level.

So you have an incredible opportunity to get involved in a very Creative 2016 at The Duncairn  and we hope that you will come along and join in.

The new printed programme and online version should be available  in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime here are three great concerts for you to enjoy in Jan/Feb.

Here's to an extremely enjoyable and creative 2016 everyone!!

No Tickets Available for Damo Gig.

Regrettably, there are no tickets left for our gig with Damien Dempsey on Sunday 29th November. This gig was priced to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to come along and as a result, all tickets sold out within a few hours. We also have a no refund policy on this one THEREFORE we won't have any returns or cancellations on the evening of the show.

Once again, we are sorry about this and we sincerely hope to have Damien come back to the Duncairn very soon.

So the end message is: If You Do Not Have A Ticket, There isn't a snowballs chance in Hell that you will get into the gig. :-(



Beyond Borders - Atlantic Arc

Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts are delighted to announce that it is to be involved in an exciting new musical collaboration as part of PRS Foundation's Beyond Borders Scheme.

Atlantic Arc Orchestra (featuring musicians & singers from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany & Galicia) is a project that has been co-produced by Irish language singer Pauline Scanlon, to draw on the shared musical heritage of the atlantic arc region. The line-up features:  Donal Lunny (musical director & bouzouki), Pauline Scanlon (Irish traditional vocals), Jarlath Henderson (border pipes), Aidan O'Rourke (fiddle), Padraig Rynne (concertina & electronics), Lillis O'Laoire (sean-nos vocals), Catrin Finch (harp), Sylvain Barou (uilleann pipes & flute), Anxo Lorenzo (gaita Galician pipes), Ed Boyd (guitar), Eoin Walsh (bass), Davie Ryan (drums & percussion), Saileog Ni Cheannabhain (sean-nos vocals).  

Pauline Scanlon is a folk singer from the West Kerry Gaeltacht of Corca Dhuibhne. She is one half of celebrated Irish duo LUMIERE and a seasoned world music collaborator. Scanlon has produced many works of note in recent years, amongst them, an International collaborative project with Maori legends TRINITY ROOTS and an Irish language based experimental project with neo-trad band NOTIFY. She is an in-demand television presenter, presenting music related programmes for TG4 and BBC in recent years and is releasing a new solo album in 2016.

Another nice addition to our Pre-Christmas Programme

Another lovely evening event on the run up to Christmas. Delighted to welcome back Local Master Cheese Maker, Mike Thompson for another Cheese and Beer Night on Monday 14th December.
So This Is How It Works in Mike's own words:

"So the idea is to run it the same as the previous one. A pay what you want beer and cheese tasting. People will learn how cheese is made, why different ones have different flavours and textures. They will be accompanied with beer to see how the tastes and flavours change".

Monday 14th December

"We are picking up all the cheese from other small scale cheesemakers and might have a wee film of us picking up selecting cheese etc.

Plan is to run it 6pm-8pm with the idea that people can come buy their xmas cheese after too".