For Snow Patrol’s talented frontman Gary Lightbody, Derry holds a very special place in his heart.
His parents may come from this neck of the woods, but his fondest memories are are of his beloved grandmother, who he insists, “informed” his whole life “to accept people for who they are.”
Having agreed to be interviewed by the ‘Journal’ by telephone from Los Angeles, ahead of the band’s forthcoming return to Ward Park in Bangor next weekend, Gary said his ‘nana,’ who passed away a number of years ago, remained an integral part of his life.
“My Mum and Dad are from Derry and my nana as we affectionately called her, lived in Fountain Street all her life.
“We would go to her house for Christmas or for other holidays. We’d spend a lot of time there, so if we had time off school we would head up to Derry in the car,” recalled Gary.
“My nana was just the most incredible person that I’ve ever known. She passed away a while back, but she’s still a big part of my life, she’s the good angel on my shoulder and she’s just one of those people who accepted everyone for who they were and that’s gone through my entire family,” he declared.
“She was of a Protestant background, but her best friend was Margaret Monaghan who was a Catholic at a time in Northern Ireland when it wasn’t a very comfortable friendship,” he noted.
“But they spent their whole lives as best friends. She would have the local Catholic priest around to the house for a cup of tea as well as the Church of Ireland reverend and she would have people from all walks of life to her home for the traditional Derry ‘cuppa.’
“When she died the church was filled to the brim, people were even standing outside the door.
“She was just a wee woman from Fountain Street, but she had this real deep connection with her community, she loved everybody and she had the best laugh in the world.
“So that informed my whole life to accept people for who they are, not where they’re from; what religion or race or background they have.
“It’s about what type of people they are and that attitude comes directly from her.
“That’s exactly what Derry means to me,” he claimed.
Snow Patrol are set to play Ward Park in Bangor on May 25, topping a bill of 11 bands from across Northern Ireland.
In fact, this is the third time the band will return to Ward Park and Gary said it has been the big question he has been asked in his home town of Bangor for the last decade!
“This will be the third time in Ward Park. One of the things that kept it in my mind, was living in Bangor, going to the shops for the last 10 years and everyone in Bangor, all they wanted to know about was, when’s the next Ward Park?
“Not when’s the next album or Belfast gig, when’s the next Ward Park? That’s the thing that 95 per cent of people want to know about. We knew there was a demand for it and we also thought there was unfinished business we had to attend to.
“Three is the magic number in many ways, great boxing trilogies, football hat-tricks, you want to connect that final dot. We knew we had to do it.
“What we wanted to do this time was something that celebrated Northern Ireland as a whole and have bands from all over Northern Ireland from every level from where they are in their careers, just to celebrate the culture of our wee country,” he added.
Soak, ROE and the Wood Burning Savages - all from Derry - will feature on the Ward Park bill and Gary has high praise for the local talent.
“’I’ve been a big fan of Soak for quite a while. She’s fantastic. I did a TED talk a while ago and I got a few people together who wrote a song for it and Soak was one of those. She was involved in that so I’ve had involvement in making music with her.
“The Wood Burning Savages - I’m just a massive fan, I love the album and I think they’re a brilliant live band.
“ROE is just amazing, she’s just an amazing person to be around. She went down great on the tour with our audience, she’s just a really lovely soul.
“We’ve all three of those from Derry and all 11 artistes on the bill are phenomenal,” continued Gary.
In fact, Snow Patrol’s frontman also had high praise for Derry audiences and encouraged fans to make the trip to Ward Park next week.
“We’ve always had such a great time when we played Derry and we played there about a year ago. That was an amazing show, the crowd was incredible. We’re always glad to have as many people from Derry at a show, because they know how to have a good time! So come on down to Ward Park for the day it’ll be good craic,” he guaranteed.
Snow Patrol will be joined by Two Door Cinema Club, Foy Vance, Ash, Soak, Jealous of the Birds, Brand New Friend, J. C. Stewart, the Wood Burning Savages, Kitt Phillipa and ROE at Ward Park, Bangor on Saturday, May 25.
Tickets are available now from Ticketmaster.