In Belfast i have walked past this street sign many times and often wondered why is this street lane called Music Hall Lane?
There must be some history of a Music Hall, why would they name a lane by this title?
If you walk down Music Hall Lane today you will notice that there is no indication of music what so ever. You will see mindless graffiti, shutters closed from past businesses and cigarette butts lying on the ground.
I found out that in the 1970s there use to be a restaurant down this alleyway named the Chimes. The owners obviously named the restaurant after the musical percussion instrument making a connection and paying a tribute to the street name, i like it.
THERE IS NO MUSIC HERE ANYMORE
I found out that Music Hall Lane sat at the rear of the Victoria Music Hall Building, See picture below. This building sat on 12 May Street, Belfast. It opened in March 1840 and could accomodate up to 600 people. Musicians and Punters may have used the Music Hall Lane for a walk to the venue for a night of entertainment for such artists and writers like the English writer Charles Dickens who performed here at the Victoria Music Hall in 1858.
Victoria Music Hall, Belfast.
The Victoria Music Hall lasted 70+ years as in 1916 the building was acquired for a church. The Gospel hall became a place of worship until the building was demolished in 1983 and in 1990 it was redevloped as an office building which is now part of the Northern Ireland Government, see pictures below.
Not long after Victoria Music Hall opened another concert hall opened known as the Ulster Hall. This venue was built in 1859 and opened it’s doors to the public in 1862. The concert hall remains the most Iconic Belfast venue landmark. The Ulster Orchestra was founded in 1966. They rehearse and perform in the grand main hall of the building. The Ulster Orchestra’s residency is here.
The Ulster Hall has a rich history of artists and bands playing in the Venue. Readings by Charles Dickens, the first venue Led Zeppelin performed the classic song Stairway to Heaven, the Clash almost performed here in 1977 though the gig was cancelled at the last minute, performances from bands like Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Stiff little fingers, Therapy, the Undertones, the Prodigy, RANCiD, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and not to mention it was the first venue i attended a rock concert. California punk rockers Green Day rolled into town in 1998 off the ‘Nimrod‘ tour, Billie-Joe Armstrong sporting a menacing bleached blonde hairstyle, spitting on stage and hurling verbal abuse at the crowd. I can’t think of any better way than spending your teenage years by going to a punk concert with your friends.
If you take a short car journey over to the east side of the City you will see references of Northern Irish singer song-writer Van Morrison‘s music like ‘Cyprus Avenue’ which features on the wildly acclaimed ‘Astral Weeks‘ album.
Belfast has always had a local music scene. Whether your taste is Punk, Electronica, Classical, Pop, folk or experimental you can always trust on the local scene showcasing tiny pockets of talent. Some of the most grotty gigs were sometimes the most memorable as they stand out in the memory.
Although Music Hall Lane has no reference to Music today it would be cool if artists where employed to give the lane a make-over, similar to the artwork around Cathedral Quarter’s Duke of York bar (See below) but i would imagine such investment would not be put into an area like this as the lane has no creative business nor culture to offer and to be honest feels pretty vacant. What once seemed like a nice idea is now nothing but an empty alleyway where bin men lift the daily rubbish and workers take a smoke break to discuss sweet nothings. This doesn’t change the fact what a great wee name it has and who knows possibly one day it’ll blossom into something better than the present.
All pictures taken by myself except black and white photography taken from archives.