North Star is one of 17 projects selected to represent Belfast in a year-long celebration of the city’s creativity: Belfast 2024. North Star is a new chapter in our Belfast Story, a performance linking Belfast, to Africa, connecting the Irish and African diaspora. At the invitation of the Anti-Slavery Society, Frederick Douglass delivered a landmark speech in Belfast. Upon leaving he reflected on the warmth of the people.

“Wherever else I feel myself to be a stranger, I will remember I have a home in Belfast.”

North Star will honour this occasion by asking Belfast to respond to the quote by posing the question “What makes people feel At Home in Belfast?” while also encouraging discussion around potential feelings of isolation, alienation and the complexities that enable anyone to feel ‘At Home.’ North Star also marks the public launch, and public introduction to Solab, a wider overarching and long-term project which North Star sits within. 

Solab is a digital space for African artists and the diaspora to connect, create and collaborate, providing openings for everyone to engage in creative processes, through the lens of Black culture and creativity. Solab will exist as an eventual platform which will enable users to create works from a palette of Black cultural expression, enabling audiences to learn and value Black cultures and Black people. The website also hosts a paper prototype of our App, Solab Access, as well as completed works from artists based across Africa and members of the diaspora in Belfast.

A need for Solab was born out of witnessing and experiencing the type of systemic racism against Black people, that culminated in the murder of George Floyd. Debate revealed racism very much existed here, but neglected, due to a community still wrestling with Sectarianism. Belfast 2024 provided an opportunity to present a live manifestation of the digital space, a window into our shared history while presenting a new space to present new stories and provide new experiences, anchored on the impact of orator, writer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass’s visit to Belfast in 1845.

North Star begins with a school programme, providing a key creative and educational platform for communities to engage Black cultural expression.  Parallel to the school engagement we have commissioned four world class artists, Grammy Award winner, Kaidi Tatham; award-winning poet, Nandi Jola, rising stars Leo Miyagee and Winnie Ama, featuring a special commission by acclaimed actor Colin Salmon and Ivor Novello Winner, Hannah Peel  each responding to the same quote and question of ‘Home’.

The link of cutting-edge technology to our eventual digital platform begins from how audiences at the North Star event will be immersed in Spoken word, Song, Beats and Bars, staged in the round, with light and sound circumnavigating the Belfast Telegraph Building, through a 360-degree surround sound and lighting system.

We are very excited about ways to extend engagement and ignite a new dialogue framed like no other from our city, making it unique to the world, beginning with North Star.


Nandi Jola

Nandi Jola was born in Gqebera, South Africa. She holds a Master of Arts degree in English (Poetry) from Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland. A poet, storyteller, playwright and creative writing facilitator, Nandi is well known in Northern Ireland and beyond for her work in the Arts and Museum and Heritage sector. 

Among her plays, the topically titled Partition and Mama Don’t Lie, engages with but also seeks to move beyond the Eurocentric themes, was commissioned as part of the Arts Council NI-supported Six Project and Smock Alley Theatre Rachel Baptiste Programme.

Kaidi Tatham

Grammy Award winner Kaidi Tatham, based in Belfast, born in Birmingham but originatingfrom Jamaica, is viewed as one of UK’s finest musicians whose skills range from multi-instrumentalist, writer, and arranger to producer. An accomplished flute player and pianist, his collaborations include: 2000Black, 4 Hero, Amp Fiddler, Amy Winehouse, Bugz in the Attic, Macy Gray, Mr Scruff, Mulatu, Slum Village and Soul II Soul. His full Discography can be found through this link –

BBC Radio 6’s Gilles Peterson described him as “the UK’s answer to Herbie Hancock. He isthe most gifted musician of his generation.” Sean Keating and Josh Byrne from Stamp the Wax  believe he is “to Broken Beat, what Tony Allen was to afrobeat.” Link 1 (below) is a great introduction to Kaidi’s work. Kaidi is also a member of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Grammy Award Winning supergroup, The PLAYList.

Winnie Ama

Northern-Irish Ghanaian music artist Winnie Ama has been noticed as a standout talent for three consecutive years. In 2024, The Belfast Telegraph and The Irish Times recognized her as the ‘One to Watch’. She debuted her live performance career at the end of 2020 and continued rising in 2022 when BBC Introducing ATL first labelled her ‘One to Watch’ after a series of captivating performances. The following year (2023), she earned the prestigious RTE2FM ‘Rising Artist’ status and received one of only three ‘Rising Star’ gold disks from Ditto.

Winnie’s journey continued in 2023 with a TEDxStormont talk by the multi-award-winning Belfast artist, showcasing her talents on international stages in the UK, Ireland, and the USA. Her performances caught the attention of icons like Macy Gray and Sister Sledge, who invited her to open their shows in Cork and Belfast. Notable stage appearances include headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude in 2022 and gracing the Glastonbury stage in 2023.

Her music blends soulful vocals seamlessly with pop and dance rhythms. Winnie Ama has garnered support from local and national radio, BBC6, RTE2FM and BBC Radio 1, where BBC Introducing Gemma Bradley praised her unique voice and fresh writing style.

Leo Miyagee

Leo Miyagee, a 26-year-old dynamo, is leaving an indelible mark on the UK and Irish Hip-Hop scenes with his versatile style, blending punchy lyricism with Jazz undertones. Hailing from the unique blend of Belfast and South London, Leo has garnered recognition from respected publications like Nialler, District, Belfast Telegraph, Vice, Irish Times, and iD magazine.

Multiple nominations at the NI Music Prize, including BBC Artist of the Year, Best Album, and Live Act, showcase Leo’s impact. With that refreshing sound that distinctively, gives a Kendrick Lamar feel, this act is one to watch in 2024. His latest release, ‘Camus,’ reflects his evolving artistry, while standout performances at notable events like Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, BBC Introducing and Electric Picnic solidify his presence.

Leo’s winter tour with his very talented band has expanded his influence from Ireland to England, Scotland, and Europe. At 26, he’s not just capturing attention now but promises to shape the future of the Hip-Hop landscape with his fresh perspective and undeniable talent.

Colin Salmon

Colin Salmon is one of Britain’s most renowned actors. With a bold voice and posture, Colin makes his characters a favourite among audiences for every role he plays. He made his feature debut as Sgt. Robert Oswald in the British mega-hit mini-series Prime Suspect 2 (1992), which gave him much acclaim among British audiences. He has a recurring role in the James Bond films as Charles Robinson, M’s Chief of Staff. He has also appeared as the Commander James “One” Shade in the video game-to-movie Resident Evil (2002) and played Oonu, squad leader of the Skybax in the mini-series Dinotopia (2002)

He has had roles on many television series such as Doctor WhoMerlinArrow, and The Musketeers. He also played General Zod on the Syfy series Krypton and provided his voice and likeness as Agent Carson in the PlayStation VR video game Blood & Truth. In 2023, he joined the BBC soap opera EastEnders as George Knight.

Hannah Peel

Hannah Peel is a Northern Irish artist, composer, producer and broadcaster. Often inspired by the connections between science and music, her solo record career includes the shortlisted 2021 Mercury Music Prize electronic album, Fir Wave; 2016’s Awake But Always Dreaming, which became an ode to her grandmother’s mind as she lived with dementia; and the space-themed Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, scored for synthesisers and a 30 piece colliery brass band. In 2023 Hannah Peel won the Ivor Novello Best TV Soundtrack award for her score to Sky’s Midwich Cuckoos.

Following her Emmy-nominated Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, in 2022 Hannah released a new, critically acclaimed album The Unfolding with Paraorchestra – the world’s only disabled and non-disabled integrated orchestra which went straight to No.1 in the UK Classical Chart. She went on to play headline shows with the orchestra at the Bluedot festival and the Barbican. Last year she recorded further high profile film and TV scores including Scoop for Netflix with co-composer Anne Nikitin and was Artist in Residence at Kings Place, London where Hannah debuted a new project with Chinese virtuoso percussionist Beibei Wang. They are currently recording a new album together.

Hannah is also a regular presenter on the BBC Radio 3 show, Night Tracks.

Jennifer John

Jennifer John is based Liverpool in the UK has been at the forefront of choir development and working with voices from diverse communities for over 30 years. She is committed to providing accessible vocal training for all people and believes in singing for social change.

In her capacity as a singing lecturer her clients include Royal Academy of Music, Real Northern College of Music, Brighton Institute of Mode Music and sir Paul McCartney’s  Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

She is the Creative Director and Manager of Sense of Sound Singers who have collaborated with Yoko Ono, Damon Albarn, Seal, Jon Bon Jovi, David Gilmore, Take That and many more.

“I love everything about choirs: the cohesion, the harmonisation, the contribution of the smaller sections that make up the whole ensemble. Collective voices create positive magic and the impact of that stays with the singers forever.”

Jennifer has recently won 2 awards for her recent virtual choir project, Love Sings which was created during Lockdown.   

Joseph Leighton

Guitarist Joseph Leighton has been hailed as one of Ireland’s brightest new jazz talents. Starting out as a teenage rock prodigy in his hometown of Derry, he became interested in jazz and began to focus a lot of his playing and studies on that. Over the next few years his teachers would also include guitar icons Jesse van Ruller, Mike Walker and Peter Bernstein, following awards from Moving On Music, PRSF and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He also visited Canada to attend the Banff Centre’s Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music under the direction of Vijay Iyer in 2016.

Joseph has toured as a sideman to many exciting countries in the world including Vietnam, Singapore, Lebanon and Jamaica (where half of his ancestry belongs to). Joseph has performed with many of the biggest names nationally in Jazz including a quartet featuring UK Saxophone legend, Julian Siegal. His new fiery trio featuring Oli Hayhurst and Jay Davis is one not to miss.

Aimee Williamson

Aimee Williamson is a Lighting Designer and Visual Artist/Operator based in Belfast. Her repertoire of projects ranges from large-scale production club nights to tours and festivals, including Glastonbury, AVA, Electric Picnic, and Body & Soul.

She has operated production for artists across a spectrum of genres, including Avalon Emerson, Idles, Ryan McMullan, and is a regular touring party member with And So I Watch You From Afar, (who she currently touring with across Europe) and The Murder Capital. In 2021 she assisted as LX2 on YUNGBLUD’s Life On Mars Tour.

Williamson’s work as an LD revolves around her sharp, reactive intuition; tailoring immersive designs that are versatile to each set and setting, and captivating to any audience. Her visuals are collected and recorded from her surroundings, drawing on natural sources and often playing with light, then layered and manipulated to create abstract and psychedelic arrangements.

Ben Flavelle-Cobain

Ben Flavelle-Cobain released his debut EP “electric//emotion” (co-produced by Brién) in
2022 and follow-up instrumental single “belquaria” in ‘23, bringing his voice as a songwriter,singer and multi-instrumentalist to listening ears. Since then, both releases have been given airplay on BBC Radio, BBC Sounds and RTE2XM. Featured by Phil Taggart (House Party), Kwame Daniels (Inna Rhythm), Peter Curtin (Groovers Corner), and Siobhan Brown (Soul Show).

Raised in a musical family, on a diet of Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Folk, Soul, RnB, Hip Hop and popular songs, from childhood, Ben started gigging as a drummer with his grandfather Jackie Flavelle, Bass player for Chris Barber, Paul McCartney, Don Ewell, Ottlie Patterson, Rod Stewart.

Ben has been an active session musician for some time,  working with artists including Joshua Burnside, Célia Tiab, Brién, Kojaque, Yenkee, Meilana Gillard (Christian McBride Big Band), Eamon Ferris (Van Morrison/The Waterboys), Matt Benson (George Ezra), Chris Taplin Blues Band, Amy Montgomery, NI Soul Troop, Donal Scullion, Jozef Dani and Caolan Hutchinson, making appearances at Glastonbury, Other Voices, Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival and Cambridge Folk Festival.

From behind his fretless Fender bass, Ben is currently running a residency “Good Time” at the John Hewitt Bar in his hometown of Belfast. Alongside Caolan Hutchinson
(Piano/Keyboards) the pair, and a revolving cast of characters enjoy sharing original music, jazz and grooves on Friday nights.

Moved by songwriting and the sounds of artists including Stevie Wonder, Jaco Pastorius, Bill Frisell, Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, Charlie Parker, Erykah Badu, Knower and Joni Mitchell, Ben is an eclectic musician with a need to create.

Bryonie Reid

Bryonie Reid is a writer and artist with an interest how people shape and are shaped by place, particularly in the complex context of colonisation and conflict. Bryonie’s writing and artwork has appeared in academic journals and books and artists’ publications. Recent publications include ‘Trying Identities’ in The Irish Review (2017), and ‘Sea-change’ and ‘Little Boxes’ in The Typescript (2021 and 2023). She has a chapter, ‘Meeting Place’ in The Routledge Handbook of the Northern Ireland Conflict and Peace (edited by Laura McAtackney and Máirtín Ó Catháin, 2023). Bryonie works independently, and with her sister Gemma in quarto collective. Bryonie and Gemma do process-focused and participant-led work with community groups and organisations. They listen, observe, reflect and creatively engage with people on identity, place and the past. Recent projects include Our Places, Our Pasts, Our Perspectives with Corrymeela, AGREEMENT with artist Amanda Dunsmore and Ulster University, and extraORDINARYwomen with the Linen Hall Library.

Gemma Reid

I am a freelance heritage practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in the Northern Ireland sector. Over time, I have centred on developing an ethically-informed participative approach to public engagement. I seek to build sustainable, equitable partnerships across social, cultural and political barriers. My practice reflects a strong belief in the transformative potential of heritage as a tool for positive change.

Molly Martin

Molly Martin is an Irish visual artist based in Belfast with a strong background in the arts. Her practice combines a mix of photography, video, audio, and performance. Her work has been published in The Irish Times, Source Magazine, she has performed in Belfast International Festival of Performance Art and exhibited in Golden Thread Gallery, and Ulster Museum – winning an award for the Inagural Video Prize of the Royal Ulster Academy in 2022. Molly is also a strong advocate for activism through the Arts, often working with young people to address the world around them via artistic expression.

Molly currently works with Fighting Words NI as a workshop facilitator and project co-ordintor assistant for the North Star project.