Pop for Peace at 50
It was the summer of 1969. Bryan Adams bought his first real six-string. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Meanwhile at Minnowburn on 2 August 1969, a free open air concert called Pop for Peace was held. The event, which aimed to provide the young people of Belfast and Northern Ireland with the opportunity to say, 'Give Peace A Chance,' was endorsed by The Beatles legend John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
What was Pop for Peace?
Pop for Peace was an open air concert that was held in the Sandpit field at Minnowburn. It was organised by a priest, a politician, two nightclub promotors and a music journalist.
The concert aimed to bring the young people from across Belfast together while promoting peace and harmony in a time of religious divide. The organisers were an unlikely group of allies from different religious backgrounds. At the time this was a brave decision. In their own words the concert aimed to bring an end to senseless bickering and public disorder.
“The Pop for Peace movement means exactly what it says – an end to the senseless bickerings and an understanding through pop and allied forms of art.”
The National Trust and Pop for Peace
The concert was originally planned to take place at the Balmoral show grounds although at the last minute permission was withdrawn.
The National Trust stepped in to save the day allowing the promoters to host the event at Minnowburn.
“We are very grateful to the National Trust for the use of the field. We will ask everyone who comes along to the concert to keep the place clean and take their litter away with them.” – Paddy Devlin, Pop for Peace organiser and SDLP politician.
“Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band was number one in the music charts, and “Give Peace a Chance” stickers were given out to concert-goers. One of the event organisers, Donal Corvin, invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to perform at the concert; they were unable to attend and instead sent two telegrams of support, one of which read, “All we are saying is give peace a chance, Love John and Yoko.” The telegrams were used as prizes for the people who collected the most rubbish on the day.
An unnamed National Trust spokesperson for the National Trust is quoted as saying, “We are perfectly happy about the concert. We decided to let it be held on our land because it was a non-sectarian and non-political event.”
What was the historical context for the event?
1969 was a time of heightened tension and ‘trouble’ in Belfast. There was also an increase in sectarian and political divisions in Northern Ireland; Civil Rights marches and demonstrations became more frequent and often ended violently. Intense political and sectarian rioting took place with British troops deployed in the province.
Pop for Peace at 50
This year, Pop for Peace is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion an intimate, free event called 'Celebrating Pop For Peace at 50' will take place at Minnowburn in the Terrace Hill Garden on Sunday 4 August, 1-5pm. Visitors will be treated to a range of activities including: a peace reading by actress Tara Lynne O'Neill, music from Sara Dylan, Nick Boyle and The Shillelaghs, poetry for Peace from Seamus Heaney Centre, history talk and walk to the Pop For Peace location from National Trust assistant curator and researcher Julianne McMahon.
Ahead of 'Celebrating Pop For Peace At 50' on 4 August, Angie Watson, National Trust Belfast Visitor Experience Manager said:
"Minnowburn, nestled in the heart of the Lagan Valley regional Park, has a very rich history of which Pop For Peace played a significant part. We are delighted to host 'Celebrating Pop for Peace at 50' in The Terrace Hill Garden on Sunday 4 August. The 1969 concert marked an important moment when people came together with one voice and one message – Give Peace A Chance. We hope visitors will join us, bring a picnic and help us honour this very special moment. We also hope to hear from people who were there. We would love for them to join us and share their memories."