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