Pop for Peace at 50

Pop for Peace at Minnowburn, 1969

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.”

Pop for Peace concert, Minnowburn
Pop for Peace at Minnowburn, 1969
Pop for Peace concert, Minnowburn

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concert was originally planned to take place at the Balmoral show grounds although at the last minute permission was withdrawn.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.