Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol and the City of Bangor’s most famous son, will be awarded the Freedom of the Borough by Ards and North Down Borough Council at a special civic ceremony to be held at Bangor Castle on 30th August. In celebration of receiving the award, which is the highest honour the Council can bestow, Gary is bringing the band back home for a very special one-off acoustic concert on Bangor seafront.
Organised by Open House Festival in partnership with Ards and North Down Borough Council, the concert will take place on the evening of Wednesday 31st August, with tickets on sale from Friday 8th July.
Gary grew up in Bangor, attending Rathmore Primary School and Campbell College before heading to university in Dundee, where he formed Snow Patrol. He would later be joined in the band by fellow Bangorian, Jonny Quinn. Gary has always maintained strong links with Northern Ireland and Bangor in particular, and has extended his support to upcoming musicians from the area and to the work that Open House is doing to help regenerate the city through arts and culture. The band has played to mass audiences in Bangor’s Ward Park three times in the past fifteen years - in 2007, 2010 and most recently 2019 - but this concert will have a much more intimate feel. Profits from the event will go to Open House for their re-development of the old Bangor Court House into a non-profit music venue, which is nearing completion.
“Thank you to Ards and North Down Borough Council for this honour. I was born and grew up in the Borough, and though I may have wandered for a few years, I made my home back in Bangor again. Johnny, Nathan and myself are really looking forward to playing on Bangor seafront for the very first time. It’ll be great craic. This town, indeed newly minted city, has always been a part of me and always will be. I do still mourn Paul’s chippy on the seafront though," said Gary Lightbody.
For the new Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas, there is a particular synergy to the timing of the concert and the bestowing of the award, as she put Gary forward to receive the honour back in October 2019, along with Councillor Craig Blaney, now the Deputy Mayor. The two councillors made the proposal on the basis of the outstanding contribution Gary has made to the local area as a musician of international standing, a philanthropist, and a champion of local charitable causes.
“I was Deputy Mayor when Councillor Blaney and I made the proposal,” said Councillor Douglas. “I’m delighted that the proposal was approved by my fellow council members and thrilled to be serving my Borough as Mayor when the honour is officially conferred. Gary Lightbody is an international name, but he is most loved and appreciated by the people of Bangor and the wider Borough and I’m sure they will join me in extending heartfelt congratulations on receiving this award and grateful thanks for everything he does for our local community.”
She continued: “The Snow Patrol acoustic concert on Bangor seafront to mark this auspicious occasion will no doubt become one of the standout events in our city’s musical history and we are grateful to Gary and the other members of the band for working it into their immensely busy schedule. It will be a befitting and celebratory end to a summer of music, events and entertainment across the Borough.”
Kieran Gilmore, Director of Open House, said: “It will be an honour to host Snow Patrol acoustic on our seafront and help Gary Lightbody mark this rare and exceptional honour. The fact that the concert is taking place just opposite the Court House is particularly apt, as profits are in aid of our restoration of the building and will help to complete the final phase of the project before we open the doors later this year.
“We held our first Open House event in Bangor ten years ago in the summer of 2012,” he continued, “and since then we have focused our efforts on creating a creative town – now a creative city, of course. Bangor may have a relatively small centre, but it is bursting with creativity and talent and Gary is at the pinnacle of that. Yes it still has its challenges, but there is so much hope on the horizon for our new city. We like to think big at Open House and are already considering how a future application for U.K. City of Culture would look. Gary and the Council share the same vision as us and that’s why they are supporting the Court House project.”
This is the third time the Freedom of the Borough has been extended since the establishment of Ards and North Down Borough Council in 2015, and the first time it has been awarded to an individual. It follows the conferment upon Health and Social Care staff in 2018 and the Irish Guards in June of this year.
Tickets for the concert will go on sale at 10 am on Friday 8th July. They cost £22.50, including booking fee and charges. Details of support acts will be announced in due course.