Northern Ireland news

Elton John's Belfast concert raised with Tony Blair

Sir Elton John on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in 1997. Picture by Rebecca Naden, Press Association
Éamon Phoenix

SECRETARY of State Mo Mowlam asked her officials to see if the grounds of Stormont could be used as a concert venue.

Declassified files show that, in an unprecedented move in September 1997, Dr Mowlam allowed a crew from Titanic Town, which starred Julie Walters and Ciaran Hinds, to film exterior and interior scenes at Stormont, including the Great Hall.

In a statement, Dr Mowlam said: "The film industry has the potential to make a positive economic and cultural impact on Northern Ireland."

She added that the local film commission was working hard to build cross-border links in the industry.

 

In December 1997, as the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement continued at Stormont, Dr Mowlam met concert promoter Jim Aiken at Stormont House to discuss the possibility of bringing an Elton John concert to the Stormont estate.

Elton John's manager, John Reid, had contacted Mr Aiken and informed him that at a recent meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair he had discussed the possibility of the musician holding a concert in Belfast in May.

A Sunday concert at Stormont "would not be appropriate", the memo read.

It was felt that Elton John might consider waiving his fee or donating it to charity or taking a reduced fee. For his part, Mr Aiken felt that Dr Mowlam might write to John Reid suggesting a concert audience of 12,000 people.

Mr Aiken also indicated that there might be some possibility of attracting Irish dancer Michael Flatley for an outdoor event at Stormont and it was agreed that "this type of event would provide the right atmosphere and publicity for the venue".

On December 3, 1997, Dr Mowlam's private secretary said he had approached the DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson on the issue.

"Robinson's reaction when asked about concerts at Stormont was not negative, in fact he offered to take soundings himself" and said that "reassurance needed to be given to the local residents", the memo read.

In her letter to Tony Blair dated December 1997, Dr Mowlam stressed her aim to create "a more inclusive perception of Parliament Buildings".

"I need to take the local politicians along with us in these measures. Nationalists are likely to be sceptical and unionists will be concerned about devaluing the standing of Stormont," she wrote.

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