East Belfast has a vibrant culture and people with a proud heritage and tradition. East Belfast has given the world cherished figures such as C.S. Lewis, George Best and Van Morrison. Many creatives in the world of sport, industry, music, film, poetry come from this part of the city and we now celebrate these famous faces and some of the iconic places with an artwork entitled Luminaries and Legends of EastSide located on the EastSide Visitor Centre.
1. Sir Van Morrison
Van Morrison is Belfast’s most famous musical son. He was born George Ivan Morrison in Belfast on 31st August 1945. Van was established as a major force in the British R&B scene leading the band Them. Morrison’s vocal and songwriting talents led to many awards and accolades - a knighthood, a Brit, an OBE, an Ivor Novello, 2 Grammys, honourary doctorates from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, entry into The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and the French Ordres Des Artes Et Des Lettres. Download the Van Morriton Trail
2. C.S. Lewis
C.S Lewis was an intellectual giant of the 20th century. Born in Belfast on 29th November 1898, he wrote over 40 books, ranging from children’s fantasy literature to popular theology. His early years in Belfast influenced much of his writing, especially The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was a Campbell College and Oxford alumni and a veteran of WW1. He was appointed Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University; he served for 29 years until 1954. He died on 22nd November 1963 aged 64 and is buried in Oxford. Download the C.S. Lewis Trail
3. George Best
George Best was a football phenomenon. George was born in Belfast on 22nd May 1946. His football talent was spotted by Manchester United scout, Bob Bishop who said to manager Matt Busby “I think I’ve found you a genius”. Aged 15 he left home for Manchester. He made 490 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 179 goals. He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring 9 goals. George Best passed away on 25th November 2005, aged 59 and is buried in Belfast. Download the George Best Trail
4. Gary Moore
Gary Moore is acknowledged as one of the finest musicians that the British Isles has ever produced. He was born in Belfast on 4th April 1952. Having a career that dated back to the 1960s, there were few musical genres that Gary Moore had not turned his musical hand to. Gracing the line-ups of several notable rock bands, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II and (The Original) Skid Row, he also established himself as a world-class guitarist, with few equals. Gary Moore passed away on 4th February 2011, aged 58.
5. David Holmes
David Holmes, musician and producer, was born in Belfast on 14th February 1969. He began DJing at the age of 15 and was responsible for a number of era-defining clubs in Northern Ireland being one of the first DJs to play techno and house music. David Holmes' music moved from theatrical, yet club-ready productions to award-winning movie scores, including Irish Film and Television Awards for Hunger and the first series of The Fall and Ivor Novello Awards for ’71 and BBC series London Spy.
6. Danny Blanchflower
Robert Dennis Blanchflower (Danny), footballer, was born in Belfast on 10th February 1926. He played for Glentoran, Barnsley, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and was capped 56 times for Northern Ireland. He later managed Northern Ireland and Chelsea.
He was captain of Tottenham Hotspur 1960-61, the season in which they achieved the League and FA Cup double. In 1958 he led Northern Ireland to the last eight of the World Cup. He was named Footballer of the Year in 1958 and 1961.
Danny Blanchflower died on 9th December 1993.
7. Harland & Wolff
Edward Harland and Gustav Wolff are inextricably linked with Belfast’s ship building industry. Their partnership in 1861 laid the foundations for one of the greatest shipyards in the world. The yard built over 70 vessels for the White Star Line, including Titanic, Olympic and Britannic, designed and built from 1908 to 1914.
Standing over the city are the two towering yellow cranes of Harland & Wolff. Known locally as Samson (1974) and Goliath (1969), they measure 106 metres and 96 metres tall respectively. Although, fully operational, they are now protected as historic monuments. To find out more about the industrial heritage of east Belfast download the Connswater Industrial Heritage Trail
8. Holywood Arches
The Holywood Arches area was named after the massive stone arches that used to carry the County Down Railway across the junction of the Newtownards and Holywood Roads. At its peak in the early 1900s, the line carried more than one and a half million passengers into Belfast every year. The arches remained in use for exactly 100 years, from 1850 until they were demolished in 1950.
9. Marie Jones OBE
Marie Jones, born in Belfast in 1951, is an award-winning writer who has written extensively for stage and television. Her play Stones in His Pockets has been performed in over thirty countries, and has won numerous awards. Her plays Women on the Verge of HRT, A Night in November, Fly Me To The Moon and Mistletoe and Crime have been well received in Belfast, London and beyond. Marie co-wrote the book for the smash hit musical, Dancing Shoes.
Marie also works as an actress and starred in films In the Name of the Father and Philomena, amongst others.
10. Lucy Caldwell
Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1981. She is the author of novels, short stories, stage plays & radio dramas.
Her novel All the Beggars Riding was chosen as One City One Book Belfast 2013.
She has written a number of plays including Leaves, Guardians, Notes to Future Self and a version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
Awards include the Commonwealth Writers’ Award, Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the George Devine Award, the BBC Stewart Parker Award, and a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
11. James Ellis
Actor and writer James Ellis (Jimmy), was born in Belfast 15th March 1931. He was best known for his roles in Z Cars and BBC Northern Ireland’s series of ‘Billy’ plays.
He began his acting career at Belfast's Group Theatre but resigned as director in 1960 to direct Sam Thompson's play Over The Bridge, about sectarianism in the shipyard, which the board had deemed too controversial.
He also pursued an interest in writing, especially poetry. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen's University for services to the performing arts.
James Ellis died 8th March 2014, aged 82.
12. Sam McCready
Sam McCready, born in Belfast in 1936, is an internationally respected actor, theatre director, teacher and author. He was a founding member of the Lyric Players Theatre.
His publications include: Lucille Lortel:The Queen of Off-Broadway, A William Butler Yeats Encyclopedia; Coole Lady: The Extraordinary Story of Lady Gregory; Baptism by Fire: My Life with Mary O’Malley and the Lyric Players and The Great Yeats!
He has performed various solo plays including The Great Yeats!, Dickens at the Ulster Hall and Percy French: Melodies of Forgotten Years and has directed his adaptation of Helen Lewis’s Holocaust memoir, A Time to Speak.
13. Eric Bell
Eric Robin Bell, born 3rd September 1947 in Belfast, is a rock and blues musician, best known as a founder member and original guitarist of the rock group Thin Lizzy.
After his time in Thin Lizzy, he joined The Noel Redding Band in the mid-1970s. Bell had also reactivated his own band in the late 1970s, and released an EP in 1981. He performs regularly with a blues-based trio, the Eric Bell Band and has released several albums throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
14. Strand Arts Centre
The Strand opened in 1935 and is now the oldest cinema in Northern Ireland. It is unique in its architectural and interior style which merges Art Deco with shipyard influences taken from its proximity to the shipyard.
It opened and closed its doors a number of time throughout the 1960s-80s, reopening in 1986 as a variety theatre. In 1988 it was converted into a four-screen cinema. In 1998 the façade and interior décor was renovated to emphasis the building's 1930s heritage and to create the distinctive design we see today.
15. St Mark’s, Dundela
St Mark's Church was designed by the Victorian architect William Butterfield in Gothic revival style. It has much treasured connections with C S Lewis who was baptised here. His grandfather, Thomas Hamilton, was the first rector of St Mark's. The rectory door has a lion shaped door handle; a young C.S. Lewis would have been standing face to face with the lion as he went to visit his grandfather. Perhaps this influenced the creation of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. In 1935 the Lewis brothers presented a stained glass window to the church in memory of their parents.
16. Dee Craig, artist
David ‘Dee’ Craig, born in Belfast in 1971 is an internationally renowned award winning artist who specializes in large scale mural art. Dee has a very successful studio practise with collectors worldwide, but dedicates most of his time to Mural Arts & community projects. He is one of the country’s most prolific mural artists and his work can be seen throughout the UK, Ireland and across the globe. He was the first to introduce the ‘Parachute Cloth’ Mural technique and is the first and only person to practise this process in Europe.