Here’s to Stuart Bailie the man who made Oh Yeah

This evening at the Oh Yeah music centre, the founding father Stuart Bailie will hand over to the new Chief Exec, Charlotte Dryden.

During his career Stuart has done many things that other people would have dreamed of doing. He played in a band. And not just any band, he played in a punk band. How many of the kids I grew up with would have wanted to do that? All of them.

When the icon of modern music and youth trends and whims New Musical Express was at the pinnacle of its power, Stuart was the Assistant Editor. There’s rumour that he might even have invented the word Britpop. How many people who I worked with in the early part of my career would have dreamed of doing that? Most of them.

After NME he had the vision, the audacity, the sheer bloodymindedness to open Oh Yeah, a centre to celebrate the diverse music of this city, of this country. Not only did this punk-britpop-journalist-broadcaster -dj- entrepreneur open Oh Yeah in the cobbled streets of old Belfast, he opened it in what was Billy McBurney’s Outlet Records’ warehouse. Outlet was, when Stuart was starting his career, home to the Country and Irishist County and Irish music the world has ever known.

(To be fair and accurate there was a lot more to Outlet Records but in my mind at the time, that’s what it was).

One night when I was playing records on the radio 30 odd years ago, around the time Stu and I first met, Billy McBurney was berating me for playing all that dreadful music. I can’t remember the words, but I do remember being more diplomatic then than I am now and not telling him what I thought of the music Outlet promoted and sold.

Now all of it – punk, pop, Country and Irish, are part of our musical heritage. And Oh Yeah recognises that. How many people do I know who would have had that vision, that tenacity, that idea? Not many – maybe even none apart from Stuart.

He is going off now to do one of the other things he is best at. He’s going to find all the right words and put them in the right order. If you have ever tried to do that for real, not this blogging nonsense, it is as tough a challenge as founding and running what has become the shining light at the centre of Belfast’s, Northern Ireland’s music scene – no scrub that. It was once a “scene”, it is now an industry. Small, vibrant and all the better for the work Stuart Bailie has done.

Oh yeah.

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