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About Panarts

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Panarts was formed in 1992 and since then have created and delivered arts programmes both at home and abroad. In Northern Ireland we have formed many successful working partnerships including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Department of Education, schools, community groups, minority ethnic groups, businesses, professional music industry bodies, songwriters, artists, arts organisations and public bodies in every NI council area.


Since 1992, we have developed a variety of innovative arts programmes and events to promote a better understanding of culture and identity.


We created the annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters® Festival and Song Writing Convention back in 2004 (piloted 2001), the first of its kind in UK/Ireland. In recent years we have worked in partnership with Music City Roots to make three one-hour television programmes broadcast on eighty five PBS channels into 60 million homes across USA.


Our Inter-community schools outreach programmes have reached many children across Northern Ireland. Panarts staff have presented at international conference events including ‘Growing Up in Divided Societies’ at Queens University Belfast and ‘Common Currency’ organised by the Ulster Historical Foundation.


Internationally, we continue to deliver Panarts cultural exchange programmes between songwriters and every year since 2005, we showcase local music talent in Nashville, Tennessee.



We created and presented many programmes over the years including:


Learn About Us - a three year arts based programme, funded by the Department of Education NI, which created inter-community partnerships between schools. The programme promoted mutual understanding, respect for diversity among children and parents in interface areas.

‘The children gained enormously from the programme in terms of building their confidence and self esteem.’  Dinah McManus, Holy family Primary School Belfast


Small World- a performance based project where school children explored the culture and traditions of the two main communities and of diverse minority ethnic groups. The course included arts performance from different communities in Northern Ireland.


Roots and Rhythms - a training workshop using music, song and dance to explore how the two main traditions in Northern Ireland view cultural heritage. This project explored how community conflict has impacted on arts expression.


People and Place Names in Song- discovered the origins of place and family names by examining the influence of the main settler groups who came to live in Ireland.

 ‘Through the programme they gained a better awareness of their own identity’ Kate Clarke, Youth Leader. Kircubbin After Schools Club


Ards Cultural Identity - a project aimed at encouraging communities in the Ards Peninsula to learn more about themselves and how they, and others, express their culture through the arts. This included a series of workshops and concerts looking at different forms of arts expression.


Changing Lifestyles – a three year cultural education programme, funded by Peace 11, linking three schools with groups of senior citizens in the Ards area.

‘Panarts professionalism was of the highest order and I thank them wholeheartedly for their inspirational input. As a professional, I learned much from their expertise’ Hugh O’ Prey, Principal, St Finian’s Primary School Newtownards


Musical Frontiersmen- an imaginative look at emigration through folk songs and storytelling which explored our cultural links with America. This musical theatre show, written by Colin Magee, toured Arts Centres and Colleges across Northern Ireland ahead of a tour in USA.


International Projects

Irish Musicians Showcase 1992 - One of Panarts first international exchanges was a six month training programme with sixteen unemployed musicians from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. This training/showcasing project took place in universities and music venues across nine American states. All the participants were employed at the end of the programme. This project was funded jointly by the Training and employment Agency and the International Fund for Ireland.

 ‘It was the best experience of my life. I learnt so much and it really broadened my outlook on lots of things’.  Roisin Dillon Belfast Musician


The United Airlines Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival- in 2001, Panarts piloted the first Belfast Nashville Songwriters’ Festival, to celebrate the art of song writing and the link with Belfast’s Sister City, Nashville Tennessee. In 2004, we launched the annual festival which continues to attract audiences and participants from home and abroad. Over the past eleven years we have discovered more about the links between our cities, our musical heritage and the traditional roots of American song writing. With our Nashville partners Music City Roots, we are now making our third music programme for television, live from the festival in Belfast. Each year, the television shows are broadcast to over 60 million homes across America on eighty five PBS channels.


Nashville Showcases & Music Industry Meetings

‘Every meeting and showcase set up by Panarts led to other doors opening’ Gareth Dunlop Belfast


Songwriter as part of our cultural exchange programme with songwriters in both Belfast and Nashville, each year after the festival in March, we bring four talented local writers over to Nashville to showcase in venues including the world famous Bluebird Café, Belmont University, Music City Roots Show and Music City Irish Festival. We also arrange several music industry meetings and co-writing sessions in Nashville, introducing the artists to leading publishers, managers, agents and songwriters. 


In partnership with Belmont University Nashville we showcase some of their most talented music students at the Panarts festival in March each year and in return our local writers perform at the University during our annual cultural exchange. 

Playing Guitar


Chairperson- Professor Joseph Duffy

Lecturer in Social Work at the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast. For over twenty years he has worked as a practitioner and manager in various social work and higher education settings. Joe has been associated with Panarts for many years and continues to help in the development of new cultural diversity projects. Each year Joe helps Panarts to source funding for programmes they develop. As a keen music fan Joe has helped build the Belfast Songwriters’ Festival into an international annual event. Each year Joe manages a number of the larger events and is actively involved with taking the main artists on cultural tours of the city.


Secretary- Ruth Dilly

Computing Officer with Queens University Belfast, Ruth has been part of Panarts for over twenty years. Throughout her time with the organisation Ruth has given her free time to ensure Panarts continues to grow. Her technical advice is central to the organisation maintaining good operating systems. At the annual Songwriters’ Festival Ruth helps with the programming of events and with the induction of new volunteers, as part of the volunteer sub-group, and manages concerts. She has participated in meetings with local agencies on funding and served on the organising committee and the Volunteers sub-group. 


Treasurer - Louise Gault 

A Drama and English graduate with a strong interest in the visual arts and performance.  Louise has worked for over twenty years with disadvantaged and disengaged young people with a responsibility for their holistic personal development. She also delivers a range of programmes including drama, life skills, personal and social development, diversity and cultural tolerance.  Louise has been a member of Panarts since its inception and has been actively involved in the induction, co-ordination and supervision of the Belfast-Nashville Festival volunteers, alongside the stage-managing and co-ordination of Festival events.


Vice-Chair - John Kelly

A Health and Safety Professional John holds the following qualifications: NEBOSH Qualified, Qualified Fire Officer, Certified Fire Risk Assessor. In positions he has held he has been responsible for department finances, managing budgets and purchasing equipment.

A keen music lover John has worked in locations throughout the world in diverse locations from South East Asia to the Middle East, North Africa and North America which gave him the unique opportunity to experience many different cultures and their music.

John has been closely involved with the management and coordination of  Panarts events including concerts and workshop since 2006. With his professional Health and Safety background John is part of the Panarts safety sub group which liaises closely with the volunteers and the safety representatives of the venues used by Panarts.


Dr Alan Grattan,

Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Humanities and Social Sciences in Winchester University.  Alan attended the University of Ulster where he gained a BSc in Sociology and a PhD in Sociology. He also holds a Diploma in Youth and Community Work and an Advanced Diploma in Education from the same institution.

Before entering higher education, Dr Grattan was a community and youth worker in Belfast in both a voluntary and professional capacity. His work in segregated and divided communities during the Northern Ireland conflict stimulated his research interests in the area of criminology.

Alan has extensive experience he has been involved in a consultative capacity in many projects in Belfast, Zambia, Friesland and Croatia. He has worked on many of the Panart’s schools and community arts programmes. Over the years Alan has researched various avenues of funding for the Panart’s education programmes and has assisted with applications. He has a keen interest in music and helps find new songwriters to take part in the Songwriters’ Festival each year. Alan also helps with the cultural activities organised for the visiting songwriters at the festival each year.

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