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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Duke's orchestral manoeuvres
By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News website

Duke Special says he is in music for the long haul

Not content with enjoying his own success, Duke Special has used an interview with the BBC News website to brand the arts funding situation in Northern Ireland "disgraceful".

The rising star says some of the funding he received along the way was undoubtedly pivotal in helping him, among other things, be lauded last year by critics for his Songs from the Deep Forest album.

The dreadlocked Belfast musician, whose real name is Peter Wilson, is back home fleetingly to open the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Thursday at the Waterfront Hall alongside Foy Vance, Julie Feeney and the Ulster Orchestra no less.

"I was stunned, amazed and saddened to learn that we are so much worse off compared to other places with regards to arts funding," he says.

"If anywhere needs the arts and the benefits that go with them, it's Northern Ireland."

Looking forward to playing with a full orchestra for the first time at the free BBC Radio Ulster event, Peter continued: "I think a lot of people will be going to it who wouldn't normally go to hear an orchestra, which is of course a good thing.

"And I for one am really excited about hearing my music being played by a 60-piece orchestra as well as Foy and Julie's.

If anywhere needs the arts and the benefits that go with them, it's Northern Ireland
Duke Special
"I think it's going to be quite a special night and a highlight of what has been an unbelievable 12 months or so."

Modestly, the self-proclaimed "hobo chic" devotee says his success has been a long time coming, but he's certainly happy that he no longer has to play cover versions in pubs while writing his own music and dreaming of 'making it'.

"I only ever played covers I liked, no matter where I played. I used to say 'I've never heard of that' if somebody asked me for something like American Pie," says the singer-songwriter.

While he admits he's been "blown away" by his recent success and the response to his latest album, Duke Special's alter ego insists he still leads a pretty normal life.

Duke Special
Duke Special has been getting used to increasing success
"People think you get this big lump sum from a record company and your life totally changes, but that money has to last for quite a while," he said.

"A lot of my peers are earning a lot more than me if you break it down."

One unexpected spin-off of nearing household name status for Peter has been having a Duke Special song used as background music to soothe the often stressful experience of getting the weekly shop in.

He said: "A friend texted me one day when they were out shopping to tell me I was on Dunnes Stores radio, which I suppose strangely means I'm enjoying some level of success.

"Yes, life is good at the moment but I want to keep making music that I can say honesty I'm proud of. I'm in this for the long haul."

The opening night of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster at 2000 BST on Thursday.

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