Agenda item


            The Committee considered the undernoted report and associated appendix:


“1.0      Purpose of Report


1.1       At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in December 2022, members agreed the music strategy, ‘Music Matters: A Roadmap for Belfast’ including its corresponding priorities.  The purpose of this report is to seek approval to the allocation of funding to a number of important strands of the music strategy.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is asked to:


-       Note the contents of this report and the progress made against areas of the music strategy, ‘Music Matters: A Roadmap for Belfast’

-       Agree the actions for remainder of 2023/24 as set out in the report and in Appendix 1 including budget implications to be met from existing departmental budgets. 


3.0       Main report


3.1       At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in December 2022, members agreed the final ‘Music Matters: A Roadmap for Belfast’. Mirroring A City Imagining cultural strategy the music strategy has 4 strategic themes, each having 4 strategic priorities. There are a number of actions and recommendations given for each priority catering to many areas of need across the music sector.


3.2       UNESCO Music delivery is funded from existing recurring and non-recurring departmental funds. At the meeting of the Special Policy and Resources Committee in April 2021, members agreed an allocation of resources to the delivery of the music strategy. £900k has been allocated towards City of Music and the Music Strategy for delivery on key developmental activities across 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively. 


3.3       In April 2023, members approved a range of initiatives to progress elements of the music strategy.  In June 2023, members received an update on current initiatives and approved additional actions.  Within both papers, there are a range of pre-existing commitments for the remaining financial year which are now progressing at pace.  These include;


-       The Pipeline Investment Fund for music venues

-       The creation of a digital music support service and marketing channels

-       The Music Industry Mentoring Programme for 2023/24

-       Continuation of Gradam Ceoil bursaries

-       Expansion of the Output Conference, Ireland’s biggest one-day music conference and live music showcase

-       The City of Music Industry Sessions

-       Support for international exchanges with other UNESCO Cities of Music, namely Hannover, Germany and London, Ontario Canada

-       A micro-grant programme, available to individual musicians, to assist with costs incurred within their art form



3.4       In June 2023, members also received an update on the recruitment and selection of the Belfast Region Music Board comprising of 25 members, to bring to life the UNESCO City of Music designation.  The board has been meeting monthly since April 2023 to map further initiatives to roll out in this financial year and beyond. 


3.5       The Belfast Region Music Board met in June and July 2023 to agree a detailed and profiled delivery plan, containing initiatives to address a range of areas, most necessary to fulfil during the remainder of the financial year.  These initiatives and associated budgets are detailed in Appendix 1. 


3.6       UNESCO Music Business Ambassador


            Theme two of the strategy has a focus on exploring and developing professional development opportunities to educate and equip music organisations and businesses to build sustainable career pathways within the sector.  In particular, action 6.5 aims to pilot the creation of a UNESCO Music Business Ambassador (MBA) – a recurring two-year role to guide City Council in identifying the needs of workers in music and the opportunities for personal development and growth.  It is proposed to allocate £30,000 annually to the Music Business Ambassador role to support the following priorities:


·        5.3 : Identify, select and allocate funding for a three-year period to support the development, delivery and promotion of a set of core music business flagship events

·        6.3 : Create more opportunities for cultural leaders and business owners to learn from and share best practice with international counterparts

·        7.1 : Develop a music business accelerator programme to grow micro-businesses into small businesses and beyond

·        7.4 : Develop a Sponsorship Toolkit to help music organisations attract private funding and educate leaders on pitching best practice. Create opportunities for third sector and private sector matching and meet-ups

·        7.6 : Develop an export strategy to support the promotion of music businesses alongside the promotion of musical talent



3.7       As this role is developed and recruited, officials will engage with colleagues in Enterprise and Business Growth and other teams across Council to ensure alignment with other support packages provided across Council and explore opportunities to add further value to these initiatives.


3.8       Health and wellbeing


            Theme one of the Music Strategy focuses on placing artists at the heart, a portion of which is built upon the aspiration within the Belfast Agenda that Belfast will be a city ‘where everyone experiences good health and wellbeing’.


3.9       Two priorities within Theme One are particularly relevant to this ambition:


·        1.8 : Alongside any financial assistance granted to creators, provide recipients with the opportunity to undertake a health and well-being one-to-one session with trained medical experts

·        2.8 : Co-design with sectoral stakeholders and fund a programme of practical well-being events and initiatives to ensure the physical and mental health of music creators is safeguarded and protected throughout the year. This should include a mechanism for reporting and dealing with inappropriate behaviour


3.10      The outcome of fulfilling these priorities is that Belfast will have a more inclusive, healthy and safe music community. It is proposed that to complete these priorities, Council should seek to work with music organisations that have a strong focus on health and wellbeing, such as Help Musicians NI and Mental Health England, that could then expand or increase their activity and reach within Belfast through a partnership with the Council. Through these partnerships, which will include a range of events and advice sessions, officials will ensure that these initiatives are also open to non-professional musicians.


3.11      Music Apprenticeships and Internships


            Theme two of the Music Strategy focuses on nurturing the sector, with Priority 8 focused on working with stakeholders to drive forward the creation of funded opportunities to engage and support the future generation of creative freelancers, cultural leaders and music business entrepreneurs.  This priority includes an action to ‘allocate funding to increase the number of paid internships and apprenticeships in music businesses’


3.12      To achieve this aim, it is proposed to develop a pilot programme with Creative and Culture Skills NI aimed at supporting the next generation of music professionals and enable the growth of the sector by directly addressing skills gaps and shortages.  Based on the principles a previously successful internship scheme, namely the NI Creative Employment Programme (NICEP), this programme will include work with employers to establish brand new internships in order to give people new opportunities in the music sector. The programme will provide part funding to cover wage costs for employers who create the new roles. 


3.13      Accessibility


            A key Priority within Theme one of the Music Strategy recommends that Council consult the live sector ‘to encourage the implementation of Access Riders to ensure the needs of disabled musicians and performers are understood and met’ to ensure greater tangible support for artists with disabilities across the city’s venues.


3.14      Members of the Culture team have recently met with the Musicians’ Union to discuss their access rider and their work to encourage its widespread use, supported by its inclusion in all of their live contracts. It is proposed to support this priority through a partnership with the Musicians’ Union and the University of Atypical to support awareness raising and normalisation of access rider usage and ensure best practice in engaging the sector.


3.15      Sustainability


            Priority 11 of the Music Strategy focuses on sustainability in the music sector, specifically to lead the charge in greening the live music sector, embedding sustainability at the heart of its approach to business operations.  Sustainability, including a conference on this area in 2025, was also a key focus of the application to UNESCO to receive City of Music status.


3.16      In order to align with these UNESCO ambitions, it is proposed to partner with experts in this area, such as Music Declares Emergency, Julie’s Bicycle and Native Events, to provide a practical ‘Go Green’ toolkit with tangible recommendations and measures for implementation.  This will be delivered by building on similar toolkits in other areas whilst promoting the use through a series of events and information sessions. 


3.17      International collaborations


            As part of Belfast’s application and status as a City of Music, member cities are committed to ‘work internationally with the UNESCO Cities Network to deliver shared music, skills and learning opportunities.


            In July 2023, the first stage of our UNESCO City of Music partnership with fellow UCoM city London, Ontario, took place. Belfast artists Ciara O’Neill and Niall McDowell, selected by London Music Office and festival lead Darin Addison, travelled to Canada for a week of experiences that will have a lasting impact upon their career and has cemented a strong relationship between our cities. Highlights of the exchange included:


·        Headline sets at Home County Music & Arts Festival which has a typical footfall of around 50,000 over the course of a weekend. This was the first time non-Canadian artists have taken part in the festival in fifteen years. 

·        A two day song-writing camp including representatives from UNESCO City of Music Ghent, Belgium.

·        Extensive media coverage across platforms such as BBC NI and CBC London


3.18      In October 2023, two artists and talent agents from Ontario will arrive in Belfast to appear at the Belfast International Arts Festival and take part in a wraparound programme of similar activity.


3.19      As well as collaboration between cities, UNESCO Member cities are also expected to take part in official UNESCO events, including the annual UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) conference which will be taking place in Istanbul, Turkey in September 2023. The main objectives of this event are to:


·        Exchange on updated, practical information on policies and activities carried out by cities to further implement the objectives of the Network both at the local and international level and stimulate inter-city collaborations.

·        Offer a key platform of discussion between UNESCO and Creative Cities on the Organization’s priorities of action in the field of culture and development as well as other issues of mutual interests; and

·        Showcase and broaden the impact and outreach of the Network and its member cities by nurturing dialogue with other relevant stakeholders, notably those from the local levels.


            Officials from the Culture Development team will be in attendance at this important event to highlight the work that Belfast is undertaking as part of the UNESCO City of Music designation.


3.20      Night-Time Economy


            Priority 10 of the Music Strategy focuses on enhancing Belfast’s night-time economy, culture and governance to ensure the city is fulfilling its economic and cultural potential after dark.


            As members will be aware, officials from Belfast City Council are engaged and represented on the Purple Flag Steering Committee which is looking at a number of actions aligned to continued status as a Purple Flag for the city in partnership with the BIDs.  This work includes a review of footfall movement across areas of the city, supporting Translink in making the case for late night services, provision of visitor services, lighting strategies, a night safety charter in partnership with Hospitality Ulster and discussions on role of night Tzar.   


3.21      Financial and Resource Implications


            UNESCO Music delivery is funded from existing recurring and non-recurring departmental funds.  Costs outlined in Appendix 1 are to be met from existing departmental budgets allocated to music development. 


3.22      Equality or Good Relations Implications/Rural Needs Assessment


            This music strategy is part of the overarching cultural strategy for Belfast that has been subject to EQIA. An equality screening has been completed and mitigating actions will be considered as part of any initiatives.”


            The Committee:


·        Noted the contents of the report and the progress made against areas of the music strategy, “Music Matters: A Roadmap for Belfast”; and

·        Agreed the actions for the remainder of 2023/24, as set out in the report and in Appendix 1, including budget implications to be met from existing departmental budgets. 


Supporting documents: