BANGOR’S musician and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody was awarded the Freedom of the Borough at a special ceremony this week. The 46 year-old ‘musician of international standing, philanthropist and champion of charitable causes’ was presented the Freedom of the Borough at an official conferment ceremony hosted by Ards and North Down Council in Bangor Castle. 

The conferment took place ahead of last night’s Snow Patrol acoustic concert in Bangor, which has been organised in celebration of the award.  Lightbody officially received the Freedom of Ards and North Down after signing the Book of Burgesses together with Mayor Karen Douglas and the Council’s Chief Executive, Stephen Reid. 

Attending the ceremony were some of the singer’s family including his mum Lynne, sister Sarah and niece Honey, as well Strangford MP Jim Shannon, North Down MP Stephen Farry and a number of local MLAs and councillors. Also amongst the invited guests were musical friends of the Snow Patrol frontman including Iain Archer, Bangor’s Grammy nominated musician as well as the talented The Florentinas from Bangor who also performed at the seafront celebration concert.

The Mayor explained the Freedom of the Borough was the highest civic honour that could be bestowed by the local authority, and Gary was the third ‘Freedom’ given by the council since 2015, following health and social care staff and the Irish Guards. She said: “The decision to bestow the Freedom of the Borough on Gary Lightbody was made in October 2019 but the pandemic and Gary’s busy touring schedule prevented us from presenting it until now. 2019 was the year of Ward Park 3 which Snow Patrol headlined and the concert really put Bangor on the international map.  “That one event illustrated Gary’s love of home, his outstanding musical talent, and his commitment to championing new artists. He is a superb role model in the music industry and an ambassador for Northern Ireland so it is very appropriate for him to receive the highest honour that Ards and North Down Borough Council can bestow.” 

 The Mayor said the Freedom of the Borough was an ‘ancient privilege’, dating back to the 1600s and was reserved only for those deemed to have given eminent service. She said the council was thrilled to be bestowing its highest honour on such a deserving recipient.  She described Lightbody as a worldrenowned musician, a philanthropist and tireless champion of charitable causes in Northern Ireland, who ultimately was an ‘outstanding ambassador’ for Ards and North Down. 

 Praising the Snow Patrol lead singer, the Mayor said he has used his success as a powerful force to support the growth and nurture of local musical talent. She said the launch of The Lightbody Foundation in 2019, in partnership with The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, had provided crucial funding and helped to support a wide range of voluntary and community groups. She said: “I know your particular focus is on young people, special educational needs and mental health but in recent months the Foundation has also responded to wider issues such as the war in Ukraine and the ‘Cost of Living’ crisis.

A true light in the darkness for many during the particularly challenging times.” Deputy Mayor Craig Blayney, who also nominated the Snow Patrol frontman for the honour, said: “Gary is a fantastic ambassador for Ards and North down, I’m delighted to see him receive this the highest honour we as a council can bestow. His charity work, his bond with Bangor and willingness to support and give time to local projects is inspirational.”