Season’s Greetings and End of Year Reflection from Oh Yeah Music Centre

Dear friends of Oh Yeah, we would like to wish you a very happy, restful, safe and healthy Christmas. Thank you for your support in 2021, from online engagement and participation through to coming out to gigs when we returned to live music and events. Your donations, purchases and messages of support have been so encouraging and it has meant a lot to the team here at Oh Yeah. 

This year all our lives were still dominated by the challenges and uncertainty of Covid. It has been so difficult to see the music sector and our community so badly affected by the pandemic, but we were also immensely proud of the work and achievements of our musicians. From Mercury (Hannah Peel), Brit Award (Bicep) and Ivor Novello (Conor Mitchell) nominations through to the NI Music Prize, including a first all female line up of winners in the history of the awards, with Saint Sister and Dea Matrona leading the charge. We also finally got to present Mike Edgar with the Outstanding Contribution to Music award. 

In November after over two years of hard work from Belfast City Council and the City of Music Steering group there was the proudest of moments when Belfast was officially named a UNESCO City of Music. We are excited about the opportunities this can bring and we are looking forward to supporting the next steps. Belfast City Council has stepped up for culture in the city and we are grateful for this commitment. 

We want to pay tribute to all the musicians who have worked tirelessly for others. Even in a year when things have been toughest, artists have continued to donate proceeds of their music to charities they support. There is no more generous group of people. We also want to pay tribute to the late Steve Strange, a champion for NI music, friend, and giant of the music industry, who we sadly lost in September.

In 2021 Oh Yeah continued to adapt to new ways of working, from a blended approach to the joy of returning to being in the room together. We worked with hundreds of highly talented creative people, from musicians to producers, engineers, crew, production, mentors, tutors, facilitators, graphic designers, freelancers and more. They helped us achieve and deliver great work, from the Virtual Tour of NI to Women’s Work, to the NI Music Prize, Sound of Belfast, Mothers In Music, Volume Control, ASK mentoring, youth outreach and arts and older people.

We commissioned two songs about Belfast for Sound of Belfast written by Gareth Dunlop and Jealous Of The Birds, and we even welcomed a new staff member Matt McGinn to the outreach team. The Oh Yeah venue has never looked or sounded better and we will continue to improve the facilities over the coming years. In short, we continued to engage with all ages, aspirations and levels, through music throughout the year.

Music creators keep on doing great things and here at Oh Yeah, we are more committed than ever to keep the doors open to music, to developing talent, to supporting and celebrating creativity. The challenge for 2022 is to retain and keep hold of the world-class talent that we have, to ensure we facilitate and support that talent and lead the way in making our cities and towns musicians and artist friendly spaces to create, build audiences and of course make a living. Musicians are innovative and resilient, the arts sector is innovative and resilient, but it has been chronically under-funded for far too long and we must make things better, for the benefit of all.

But there have also been very supportive funders and sponsors who without, we would have had to close the doors and so we want to thank them and acknowledge that support. To the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Google/YouTube, Education Authority, Department for Communities, Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland Screen, PPL, PRS Foundation, PRS for Music, Help Musicians, Spirit of 2012. Thanks also to Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon for the donation of the ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’ rare acetate, we hope to auction it very soon! Thanks also to Gary Lightbody for all that you do for music in NI.

Big love to all the hard working creatives based in Oh Yeah – we have the best bunch of tenants. Final thanks goes the Oh Yeah staff and volunteers and to our new Chair Paul Evans, Vice Chair Lynne Best and all the Oh Yeah board. The commitment and support has been above and beyond. 

Happy Christmas everyone, please stay healthy, be happy and let’s move into 2022 with a renewed confidence.

From Charlotte, Dee, Caoimhe, Charlene, Lisa, Matt, Paul, Ryan, Seán and Sian!

Oh Yeah – 2021 On Screen…

Check out all the great projects from 2021 on YouTube… click here and don’t forget to subscribe for future updates!

NI Music Prize 2021 – How It Went

Saint Sister and Dea Matrona
triumph at NI Music Prize 2021

The NI Music Prize returned to the Ulster Hall on Wednesday 17th November for a live showcase of some of the best music artists we have to offer. The event, which was organised by the Oh Yeah Centre, also went out live on YouTube and BBC Radio Ulster.

After a year without gigs due to the pandemic, this was the first opportunity for fans, artists and industry in almost two years to get together for a much-needed celebration of all that is great about music from Northern Ireland.

There were jaw-dropping moments of live music from shortlisted acts Dani Larkin, New Pagans, Trú and Amy Montgomery, as well as special guest performances from Ash, Ryan McMullan and Sasha Samara.

It was a night for emotional speeches, tributes and dedications including a moving tribute to the late Steve Strange. The event also spotlighted the excellent work of Help Musicians throughout the pandemic.

UNESCO City of Music was officially marked with an opening address from the Lord Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl and Hannah Peel.

Big moments included Saint Sister taking Best Album supported by PPL for their stunning record ‘Where I Should End’ decided by a panel on the night. Dea Matrona picked up the two other awards for Best Single (supported by YouTube Music) and ATL Contender Award as voted by the public. 

It was a first ever all female line up of winners and while both acts were unable to pick up their awards due to touring commitments and show schedules, (another first for the night) there were beautiful acceptances on Saint Sister’s behalf from Gemma Doherty’s mum Sharon Hall and good friend and fellow artist Katie Richardson. Dea Matrona beamed in with a thank you and their manager Aidan Shortall picked up their awards.

Tim, Rick and Mark from the band ASH presented Mike Edgar with the Outstanding Contribution award for his 40 year career, impact and support for music. He made a heartfelt speech and got a rightly rousing applause.

Charlotte Dryden from Oh Yeah said. “ Huge thanks to team involved in putting on such a massive show under some of the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced, led mostly by the effects of the pandemic. An army of great people helped get this over the line and the production was superb. It was an exceptional night of music and massive congratulations to all the acts involved right from the start of the process through to the winners. We have a world-class music scene here and we will keep telling people that.”

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer of PPL said: “Each year the Northern Ireland Music Prize celebrates the best of the country’s music, showcasing a diverse range of artistic talent and recognising music as an important contributor to its culture, economy and community. PPL is proud to support Northern Ireland’s music industry and would like to congratulate Saint Sister and all those recognised by this year’s Prize for making music of exceptional quality.”

Saint Sister play Derry Nerve Centre on Saturday 20th Nov – TICKETS

Belfast Empire on Sunday 21st November – TICKETS

Photos and music all at

Copyright Mike Edgar Productions/Oh Yeah

NI Music Prize 2021: The Lowdown!

Essential info:

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Ulster Hall, 34 Bedford St, Belfast BT2 7FF

Doors – 6.45pm

Main event starts 7.30pm sharp and ends @10pm

A limited number of tickets will be on sale on the door.

Any ticket holders without physical tickets will have their name on the door

The event will be live-streamed from Oh Yeah’s YouTube page.

We will also be live tweeting the event.

Ulster Hall entry policy here.

Dress to impress or smart casual

This is a fully seated show

Your event hosts:

Rigsy and Gemma Bradley

Featuring Guest Performances from:


Ryan McMullan

Sasha Samara


Nominee Performances from

Dani Larkin

New Pagans


Amy Montgomery

The Prize is an annual recognition of new and outstanding musical talent from Northern Ireland. This year the event returns to the Ulster Hall after a hugely challenging time for music. The evening will mark the rebuilding and revival of our industry and artists as we finally emerge from the pandemic. It will be a chance to reflect but it’s also an opportunity to look to the future with a renewed optimism. And of course it will be a night to celebrate the great music that our musicians have produced over the last twelve months.

The evening will feature live performances from shortlisted acts and special guests. Presenters will announce awards for Best Album presented by PPLBest Single (supported by YouTube Music) and the ATL Contender AwardThe evening includes the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award presentation to Mike Edgar and there will be a spotlight on the work of Help Musicians. There will also be a special dedication to the late Steve Strange who sadly passed away earlier this year.

The evening will also mark the recent designation of Belfast as UNESCO City of Music. Belfast has been awarded the coveted City of Music status celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage and recognising the importance of music to its future. Belfast is only the third city in the UK to become a City of Music with Liverpool receiving it in 2016 and Glasgow in 2008. It is also the first city on the island of Ireland to receive the accolade. There are now 59 Cities of Music forming part of the prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

The Northern Ireland Music Prize is supported by Belfast City CouncilYouTube MusicArts Council Northern IrelandPPLPRS for Music, and in association with BBC Across The Line.

The event will also be streamed live on the Oh Yeah YouTube Channel.

The NI Music Prize is coordinated by the Oh Yeah Music Centre and was established to celebrate and promote the rich and diverse home grown, world-class music of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

The event takes place during the Sound of Belfast festival, an annual 10-day showcase of the music of the city, from grassroots acts to celebrated names. 

Sound of Belfast is dedicated to celebrating the tireless efforts of local musicians, promoters, industry, community, media, supporters and audiences – this passion combined is what makes Belfast a great music city. It takes place 4th – 18th November 2021.

For more info on Sound of Belfast –

For more info on the NI Music Prize –

Please read the following for Ulster Hall entry policy:

COVID Status Check

All ticket holders aged 18 and over, will need to provide one of the following:

  • Proof of full vaccination
  • Proof of a negative Lateral Flow Test
  • Proof of natural immunity

Read full details on what is required for a COVID Status Check.

COVID-Secure Check

Led by government guidance and supported by industry best practice, our team has undertaken comprehensive risk assessments to mitigate against the transmission of COVID-19. Find out more information about our COVID-Secure Venue.

Join Music Connections at Sound Of Belfast to Explore Challenges and Opportunities for NI Music

Hear directly from BAPAM, Free The Night, Help Musicians, PRS Foundation and more.

17 November 2021, Belfast – Music Connections, the online music business hub for the music sector in Northern Ireland (NI), has partnered with Sound of Belfast to host an afternoon of discussion, debate and networking for the NI music community as part of the conference and festival. Taking place on Wednesday 17 November 2021 at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast, the sessions are free and open to anyone working in music or with a genuine interest in the development of the sector in NI.

The afternoon has been designed to focus on some of the core challenges and opportunities for both music creators (artists, songwriters and composers) as well as those working to support music creation, from managers and producers to journalists, broadcasters, promoters and health professionals.

The wide-ranging discussions will cover NI’s night time economy and culture, led by campaigning organisation Free The Night, and a session looking at how music creators can make the most of online platforms to monetise their music and fuel their career development. The afternoon will finish with a practical discussion on how the music sector in NI can better manage its mental health and where it can find support locally for any specialist physical performance injuries. Health professionals are especially welcome to attend this session.

The panels bring together a selection of high profile and experienced individuals from across the UK and Irish music industries including Iain Archer (2 x Ivor Novello award-winning and Grammy-nominated songwriter), Nadia Khan (recent recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at Music Week’s Women in Music ceremony), Sacha Lord (Night Time Economy Advisor for Manchester and Founder of Parklife Festival and the Warehouse Project), and Sunil Sharpe (Irish DJ, Producer and Founder, Give Us The Night).

The full programme is set out below. To register for the free event, click here.

12:15 – Music Connections opening address

Music Connections launched in July 2021 to bring the NI music sector the latest news, views and events from across the UK and Ireland. We’ll be kicking off our afternoon of panels with a short intro to Music Connections – so come along, settle in, and let’s connect. 

12:30 – PRS Funding Presentation

Join PRS Foundation’s Grants Coordinators Westley Holdsworth and Aja Garrod as they run you through the key PRS Foundation funding schemes. PRS Foundation will be offering a series of 1-2-1 sessions after their presentation. 

13:00 – Lunch + networking

13:30 – Up All Night: how we can turbo-charge NI’s night time economy

The night time economy is any activity that occurs between 6pm and 6am and it’s the UK’s 5th largest industry, accounting for 8% of employment across restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs, live music venues and theatres. Rules on this part of the economy affect DJs, artists, promoters, musicians, bartenders, hospitality workers, security guards, sound & visual technicians, public transport workers, taxi drivers and frontline services who all use the night-time economy on a regular basis. But after 25 years, Northern Ireland’s opening times remain the most restrictive in the UK and Europe. Free The Night is on a mission to change this, to rebuild and grow the night time economy and creative industries post-pandemic.

  • Boyd Sleator – Free The Night
  • Ciara Power – Queen’s University Belfast
  • Holly Lester – Duality Trax
  • Sacha Lord – Night Time Economy Advisor, Manchester
  • Sunil Sharp – Founder, Give Us The Night, Ireland

14:45 – The online music economy: does it all add up?

These past 18 months have left artists unable to perform live, with the NI sector slowly but surely opening up again to full capacity audiences. Meanwhile, the debate around the economics of streaming has intensified, with campaigners taking their case directly to the UK Government to bring about change. The Inquiry explored current business models and how existing contracts and laws impact artists, record labels, streaming platforms, and consumers. But is it all bad? How else can music be monetised online? Join our panellists as they delve deep into the online economics of music, explore the opportunities available and share their experiences of what works and what doesn’t.

  • Graham Best – Senior Director of Platform Operations, Songtradr
  • Iain Archer – Two-time Ivor Novello award-winning and Grammy-nominated songwriter
  • Nadia Khan –Founder of Women in CTRL / AIM Chair

16:00 – Time out is not ‘time over’

The vast majority of musicians operate as freelance businesses, and while this can present opportunities, it also sadly means that when things don’t go to plan, pressures often mount up, leaving individuals overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn to for assistance. BAPAM, Help Musicians and Music Support are a network of charities that collaborate in Northern Ireland to support musicians’ mental and physical health in these circumstances. Hear how they are working together to ensure the music community in Northern Ireland receives support with physical health, mental wellbeing, and health and addiction issues.

  • Lynne Best – The Fourth Pillar / Music Connections 
  • Dr Christine Hunter-Lavery – GP / British Association for Performing Arts Medicine
  • Keith Millar – Help Musicians NI
  • Lynne Maltman – Music Support
  • Owen McKenna – New Atlas


Belfast: UNESCO City of Music!

**It is official; Belfast is a UNESCO City of Music! **

Congratulations to all involved in the process; two years of planning leading to a successful bid. A lot of work behind the scenes from the team at Belfast City Council and an honour for our CEO Charlotte Dryden to chair the City of Music committee as part of this.

Biggest thanks goes to the artists, musicians, bands, venues, promoters, DJ’s, songwriters, audiences and all the creative community that make Belfast sing, day in, day out. Without them there is no music city to talk about. We are the sum of many musical parts – past, present and future – making space for new and exciting sounds.

It has been a crushing time for music, so the timing of this is so important. Now to take this as an opportunity to make things better, push forward, look to the future, rebuild and celebrate what we have all known for a very long time, that Belfast is a music city!

belfastmusic #unescocityofmusic #belfastunescocityofmusic

Much love ❤ to Eri Ka Lynne Best Sharon Young and the army of people that made this happen.

For further details on the UNESCO City of Music title and what it means for Belfast, visit

Kate Nicholson on Sound of Belfast, New releases and ‘Mothers in Music’!

Kate Nicholson is a GP who lives in Portstewart with her husband and two young children.

Being a new mum during a global pandemic found Kate needing a creative outlet. Our unique ‘Mothers in Music’ programme helped her through meeting women who understand the challenges of making music from a mother’s perspective.  Although Kate has been writing songs since the age of 17, being a mother has given her an added push to create and share her music – she recorded an album of 10 songs during lockdown!  

Here, Kate shares her latest news and looks forward to her two gigs at Sound of Belfast.

Hi Kate, You’ve had a busy time of it lately! Tell me about your upcoming Sound of  Belfast gigs and the other exciting news you have had. 

Well firstly and most importantly we have had a new addition to the family – baby Tomás John, who is 3 months old! He is beginning to have the best wee smiles, coo’s and cuddles. But sleep is still at a premium which is really hard for someone who loves their sleep! 

And what about the gigs? 

First up is an Open Mic night with the “Mothers in Music” collective on Friday 5th November at the Oh Yeah Centre. I really can’t wait to hear all these amazing mamas do their thing! 

I have so much respect for these women who have overcome adversity to continue to do the things they love. That is what the group was all about. I’m speaking for all of us when I say we are so grateful for the programme which was run by Charlene Hegarty, Talent Development Officer at the Oh Yeah Centre. 

We had songwriting classes with some of the best in the business such as Katie Melua, and formed a bit of a support network to encourage and collaborate with each other.  I think it came at a good time for us, when a lot of things were put on ice due to the Pandemic.

You have another appearance at Sound of Belfast isn’t that right? 

Yes, I am playing at the Empire Music Hall on Friday 12th November at an “In the Round” night of music along with Siobhan Brown, Bernadette Morris and Cormac Neeson.

When I was 18 or so I collected glasses at the Empire and had the privilege of seeing ‘The Answer’ live. Needless to say I was impressed, so to be sharing the stage with Cormac is pretty special! I’m also excited to play alongside Siobhan and Bernadette who are first class. The night is hosted by Ralph McLean whose show I’ve been listening to for years.

Any new releases coming out soon?

Yes I’m giving away all my secrets here! I have a new single coming out this Friday 5th November called “Wrong Side of the Town” which will be available to stream in all the usual places. It features Cormac Neeson on vocals and we will be playing it live for the very first time at the Empire on 12th November. It’s going to be a very special night and I hope to see you there

Book your free places for the ‘Mothers in Music’ showcase at Oh Yeah.
Book your tickets for ‘In the Round’ at the Empire.

A Pocket Guide to Sound of Belfast

Across the city and online, Sound of Belfast will roar into life from Thursday 4 – Thursday 18 November. 

You can catch a show (or several!), support your local music venue, discover your new favourite band, take a creative workshop or learn more about the music business.  

With 14 days of music and over 50 events to choose from, we’ve made it really easy for you to find your way around the festival with this handy, cut-out-and-keep guide!  

Live Music

If you want to…Go to this event 
Celebrate an amazing year in musicNI Music Prize at the Ulster Hall
Hear two beautiful new songs about Belfast (along with full sets!) from Jealous of the Birds and Gareth Dunlop. True North 
See the artist who Gary Lightbody says has “great songs and a powerhouse voice”. Rebekah Fitch 
Experience NI punk legends in a fresh new line-up.XSLF
Want to experience the feel-good funk, soul sampling savvy and party-starting hip-hop, as loved by Craig Charles (BBC 6 Music). The Allergies
Want to rock the boat (*okay, barge!) with a punk legend. Henry Cluney 
Launch a new local music and culture magazine with a night of funk, soul and jazz. YEO Magazine
Be blown away by the band who stormed Stendhal Festival this year – *twice*!No Oil Paintings
Discover fresh new musical talent in a battle of the bands competition. Volume Control – Clash of the New Breeds
Chill out with a relaxed evening of live performances, stories and inspirations from some of our finest local singer-songwriters. In the Round with Ralph McLean

Panels and Workshops

If you want to…Go to this event
Explore and start to overcome what is holding you back. Shame and the Voice 
To change punk in Belfast, to bring women and girls back into the scene here.RiotGrrrl Collective Belfast Presents…
Record your first piece of music.Hit Record
Find out about the creative, mental health and welfare support available from one of our favourite charities. Help Musicians NI Info Session
Learn how to use found sound and environmental textures in your music. Field Recording with Dr Isobel Anderson
Have a one-to-one discussion about anything related to your music career.Help Musicians NI Career Clinic 
Stay healthy in the music industry.Your Healthy Career in Music
Find out about expert music industry support, tailored services, protecting your rights and ensuring you get paid. Musicians’ Union
Better promote your music online.YouTube Masterclass
Enjoy an evening of creativity, chat and the sip of your choice. Paint & Sip
Learn about everything from registering your music to understanding music publishing and copyright. PRS for Music (Performing Rights Society)

Film Screenings

If you want to…Go to this event
Explore some serious and thoughtful insights into living alone as an older musician. Room Songs 

Walking Tours

If you want to…Go to this event
Discover the venues, characters and artists who have shaped Belfast’s musical story.  Belfast – City of Music Walking Tour – 6th November / 13th November

Online Events 

If you want to…Go to this event
Enjoy an intimate evening of love songs, power songs and the odd comedy song, live from your sofa!Eve Williams
Learn how to write a song, with melodies, lyrics and harmonies that hook your listeners.Songwriting 101
Watch a beautiful new gig film shot in the stunning surroundings of The Pump House in Belfast featuring breathtaking stripped back performances from four brilliant artists.The Pump House Sessions

For full details on Sound of Belfast and to book your tickets or places for free events, visit

How to capture Belfast in a song?

With support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, that’s the challenge which we set for two of our finest singer-songwriters, Gareth Dunlop and Jealous of the Birds, earlier this year.

Here’s how they went about it:

“After accepting the commission, one of the first things I did was research songs that other artists had written about Belfast. This led me to highly politicised ballads and pop songs that still framed Belfast within the context of the Troubles. My approach to writing ‘Belfast Song’ was to relinquish that baggage and reflect a more modern, progressive side to this city, while still being respectful of its history.

On the side of the Garrick Bar are the words, “A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise. A nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.” That feels as relevant as ever. When I spoke to friends and family about the commission, everyone agreed that people here are tired of having their home city frozen in time as a conflict zone. This song is my effort to capture the thrum, the pulse and the warmth of a place that’s nurtured my early adulthood and career in music.”
– Jealous of the Birds

“I’ve had the luxury of touring all over the world and I’ve spent time in some incredible cities, writing and recording. When it came to writing about home, the most natural place to pull from was how much I miss it when I’m away from it. The people, the sights, the scenery and the intangible edge it has.

It took me to spend so much time away from Belfast to really appreciate how special the city is. The Covid-19 pandemic afforded me the chance to be home for an unusually long period of time and really fall deeper for all it has to offer.”
– Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop

Hear the results of Jealous of the Birds and Gareth’s creative endeavours as part of their double-header full sets in ‘True North’ at Sound of Belfast, Oh Yeah, 7.30pm on Thursday 4 November.

Book your free tickets now at

Dolores Hitting the Right Beat with Belfast City Music Walking Tour!

If you were looking for the right person to host a musical walking tour of Belfast, then someone who jumped up on stage in the Ulster Hall in 1978 and played drums to ‘Peaches’ with The Stranglers would probably fit the bill!

Live music has always played a big part in budding tour guide Dolores Vischer’s life – and still does.  Growing up between Donegal and Belfast, she loved widely differing genres of music – from the vibrant Irish trad scene in Donegal, where she learned bodhran, to the thrill of raw punk gigs in Belfast’s Harp Bar in the late 1970s. She also plays the drums, (which is where her Stranglers claim to fame comes in!)

More recently, Dolores joined a band after signing up to Oh Yeah’s Girls Rock School NI programme in 2018. She’s currently part of the Over the Hill Music Collective and recently recorded a song she wrote for a new OTH album that’s in the pipeline. On top of that she enjoys singing and performing in the Cathedral Quarter Choir. 

During lockdown, Dolores decided to explore her interest in becoming a tour guide and has almost completed the course to become a qualified Belfast Green Badge Tourist Guide.  Speaking about the forthcoming Belfast Music Tour taking place as part of Sound of Belfast festival, Dolores says:

“I love supporting local bands and it’s great now to be able to get back out to gigs again. Belfast has such a rich music heritage and so much talent, past and present, I just want to share my passion and for people to enjoy themselves.” 

Starting out at the Ulster Hall, the tour will explore some of the venues that are important in our musical history. Find out about some of the characters down the years who’ve shaped our music culture, and acknowledge some of the talented people taking it forward today. Hear about the festivals our city is home to and end with a visit to Belfast’s own dedicated music hub, the Oh Yeah Centre! After browsing the Music Exhibition, relax over a pint and enjoy an acoustic set by a future star! 

Tickets for Belfast – A City of Music (Guided Walking Tour) are £15, including the walk, pint and live music at the Oh Yeah Centre.

Book now:

Saturday 6 November, 12.55-4pm · Tickets
Saturday 13 November, 12.55-4pm · Tickets