Northern Ireland

Consultation process and social fund underway for Boucher residents ahead of summer concerts disruption

Major gigs in south Belfast cause disruption for residents each year

The Emerge Music Festival returns to Belfast this weekend
The Boucher Playing Fields in south Belfast will host a series of major gigs this summer.

South Belfast residents face “continued disruption” and “logistical challenges” as the summer season of musical events approaches.

Belfast City Council is beginning a process of engagement with residents close to Boucher Road Playing Fields and Ormeau Park, where major gigs are due to take place in the months ahead.

The council has also set up a new ‘Social Value Fund’ to be allocated to communities beside Boucher Road Playing Fields who are impacted by large concerts.

The Playing Fields will host Bruce Springsteen in May, and Liam Gallagher, Noah Kahan and the Emerge dance music festival in August.

In June 2022 the site was confirmed to remain a venue for gigs and other events when its entertainment licence was renewed, despite complaints and objections from local residents.

Two months later the council announced extra residential security to protect residents around the Playing Fields after people were left “traumatised” in their homes after an Ed Sheeran concert, according to a local councillor.

The site hosted large gigs since 2010, and while they a huge source of income for the city’s economy, they remain an ongoing source of upset to residents.

Ed Sheeran is due to play at Boucher Road playing fields next May. Picture by Mal McCann
Boucher Road Playing Fields in south Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

A council report states: “One of the key challenges at this venue is the lower level of residents, community organisations and businesses to participate in engagement events, in comparison to the Ormeau and Ravenhill areas.

“The only way to currently engage was to leaflet drop all the residents to try to host a session with a high number of individuals rather than a strong collective voice. It was recognised that attempting to organise effective engagement with a promoter and a large group of dissatisfied individuals would be counterproductive rather than progressive at this stage.”

Councillors for the Balmoral area have agreed to meet residents and draft a list of key issues and mitigations. A community services area support team has been allocated to work with residents and local businesses to establish a representative forum.

Councillors have also highlighted the need for a better messaging campaign around events to promote awareness of consent and sexual assault and council officers are investigating whether the provision of spike testing kits can be introduced at concerts by the promoters.

Balmoral Sinn Féin councillor Geraldine McAteer told a recent meeting: “These artists are very welcome, they attract huge audiences, and they generate a huge amount of revenue. Quite apart from that, they lift the image and the morale of the city.

“But they also come with great logistical challenges, and that is why I want to welcome the more proactive approach we are taking to how these events are going to be managed for local residents.

“There are lots of issues to do with traffic management, emergency services, health and safety and so on. It is vital that we have the residents involved in how those decisions are made.”

Balmoral SDLP councillor Donal Lyons said the social fund for the Boucher area was “long overdue”.

“We have seen the social fund in operation at Ormeau Park. It was Boucher Road Playing Fields which prompted us to investigate social clauses for Ormeau, and that encountered some legal difficulties.”

Mr Lyons said he had seen people climbing walls and fences of residents’ home sin the belief they could get into the Playing Fields for free.

“I have seen disruption and aggression towards homeowners and residents who are doing the outrageous thing of trying to protect their property from being used as a public toilet,” he added.

He said: “I am optimistic we can at least mitigate against some of the disruption over the coming summer, but the sad reality is that the residents know there will be continued disruption there.”