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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Ulster Hall to get 7m facelift
Take a tour inside Belfast's Ulster Hall

The Orange card was played there and a century later so was Motorhead's Ace of Spades - now Belfast's Ulster Hall is getting a multi-million pound facelift.

The project will cost more than 7m and the architect is Dawson Stelfox.

It is closed now, but when the historic building reopens at the end of next year it will be the official home to the Ulster Orchestra.

Mr Stelfox said they wanted the building to be "beautiful" as well as a practical concert venue.

"The Ulster Hall caters for a huge range of activities from boxing matches to beer festivals fashion shows, political rallies and of course the concerts which are central to it," he said.

"It has to be flexible, it has to be practical it has to be functional but we want it to be a beautiful building and we think this hall will be beautiful when we've finished with it as well."

The main hall is to be re-fitted and redecorated, closed since the 1980s the windows will again be re-opened.

Built in 1862, the hall was bought by the then Belfast Corporation in in 1902 for 13,500.

Lord Randolph Churchill addressed a 'Monster Meeting of Conservatives and Orangemen' in Belfast's Ulster Hall on 22 February 1886 to urge Ulster Protestants to oppose Home Rule for Ireland.

Michael Stone in the Ulster Hall
Loyalist Michael Stone was released from jail to attend a rally in the Ulster Hall

Since then it has had a prominent role as a venue for political rallies.

In 1986 Ulster Resistance was launched at the hall in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, with DUP leader Ian Paisley, now first minister, in attendance.

In 1995 dissident loyalists called for an Orange economy for Northern Ireland, as well as the resignation of the then Orange Order Grand Master Reverent Martin Smyth.

Loyalist killer Michael Stone received a rapturous welcome at the hall during another rally in 1998, which he had been granted leave from prison to attend.

In 2002 its walls resounded to the sounds of a different tune, when 2,000 republicans stood for the playing of the Republic of Ireland's national anthem during a Sinn Fein rally during yet another crisis in the peace process.

Charles Dickens visited Belfast three times to deliver public readings which captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and in 1869 he addressed a crowd in the Ulster Hall.

It has been a high calibre music value since it was built, with the famous tenor Caruso singing in the hall as well as Led Zeppelin and U2.

Maggie Taggart explores the Ulster Hall

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