The NI Music Prize returned to the Ulster Hall last night for a live showcase of some of the best music artists we have to offer. The event, which was organised by the Oh Yeah Centre, also went out live on YouTube and BBC Radio Ulster.

After a year without gigs due to the pandemic, this was the first opportunity for fans, artists and industry in almost two years to get together for a much-needed celebration of all that is great about music from Northern Ireland.

There were jaw-dropping moments of live music from shortlisted acts Dani Larkin, New Pagans, Trú and Amy Montgomery, as well as special guest performances from Ash, Ryan McMullan and Sasha Samara.

It was a night for emotional speeches, tributes and dedications including a moving tribute to the late Steve Strange. The event also spotlighted the excellent work of Help Musicians throughout the pandemic.

UNESCO City of Music was officially marked with an opening address from the Lord Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl and Hannah Peel.

Big moments included Saint Sister taking Best Album supported by PPL for their stunning record ‘Where I Should End’ decided by a panel on the night. Dea Matrona picked up the two other awards for Best Single (supported by YouTube Music) and ATL Contender Award as voted by the public.

It was a first ever all female line up of winners and while both acts were unable to pick up their awards due to touring commitments and show schedules, (another first for the night) there were beautiful acceptances on Saint Sister’s behalf from Gemma Doherty’s mum Sharon Hall and good friend and fellow artist Katie Richardson. Dea Matrona beamed in with a thank you and their manager Aidan Shortall picked up their awards.

Tim, Rick and Mark from the band ASH presented Mike Edgar with the Outstanding Contribution award for his 40 year career, impact and support for music. He made a heartfelt speech and got a rightly rousing applause.

Charlotte Dryden from Oh Yeah said, “ Huge thanks to team involved in putting on such a massive show under some of the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced, led mostly by the effects of the pandemic. An army of great people helped get this over the line and the production was superb. It was an exceptional night of music and massive congratulations to all the acts involved right from the start of the process through to the winners. We have a world-class music scene here and we will keep telling people that.”

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer of PPL said, “Each year the Northern Ireland Music Prize celebrates the best of the country’s music, showcasing a diverse range of artistic talent and recognising music as an important contributor to its culture, economy and community. PPL is proud to support Northern Ireland’s music industry and would like to congratulate Saint Sister and all those recognised by this year’s Prize for making music of exceptional quality.”