Villagers, Neil Hannon, Soak and Therapy? For BBC Special Tonight

BBC Radio Ulster tonight celebrates 30 years of the hugely influential rock programme Across The Line with a gig in the Ulster Hall that boasts a star-studded bill.

Villagers, Neil Hannon, Soak and Therapy? are among the acts currently limbering up for what will be a very special show in the Ulster Hall tonight.

The star-studded gig is to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the highly influential BBC Radio Ulster alternative rock programme, Across The Line.

“In September 1986, a new programme called The Bottom Line made its debut on BBC Radio,” a BBC spokesperson told Hot Press. “The programme was an early champion of new music from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, often giving bands their first radio play and bringing listeners the latest sounds from the local music scene.”

It did all of that – and whole lot more besides. Fast-forward to September 2016 and the programme is now known as Across The Line – and it remains BBC Radio Ulster’s home for new alternative local music.

“There is no over-stating the importance of Across The Line to Irish music,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “It is really vital for the genuinely committed and creative Irish artists and bands to have a platform on radio where their music can be heard – and heard consistently. Across The Line has provided that platform in a unique and wonderfully supportive way, over a sustained period. In the process the programme has successfully helped to open audiences up to brilliant new artists – also enabling musicians to forge careers that might otherwise have foundered. The entire Irish music community owes everyone involved in the programme – not least its founder and guiding spirit Mike Edgar – a huge debt of gratitude. Long may it run.”

Among the acts confirmed for the birthday bash are Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, the critically-acclaimed Soak (who will perform with her band), Dublin favourites Villagers (who will perform an acoustic set), veterans of rock, Therapy?, and Newry band The 4 Of Us, all of whom the programme has supported since their early days.

Also performing are up and coming ATL favourites, Belfast five-piece R51, and duo Saint Sister.

The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster from 8pm-10pm and streamed live at It is also being filmed for future television broadcast.

Over the past year in the run up to the anniversary, the programme’s frontman Rigsy and Stuart Bailie have been revisiting ATL’s enviable back catalogue of live performances and interviews – and looking back at some historical musical moments in Northern Ireland.

“The programme was originally broadcast on BBC Radio Five and BBC Radio Ulster and despite a brief break and a name change, 30 years later the ethos remains the same,” the spokesperson told Hot Press, “and that is to champion the best emerging and established alternative music from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, giving many bands their first radio play and first media interview. Among the acts to be long-terms friends of the programme are Therapy?, Ash, And So I Watch You From Afar, Snow Patrol, Duke Special, U2 and Villagers. The programme also supports local music producers, events and festivals.

Presenters of the programme over the years have included Mike Edgar, Donna Legge, Paul Hamill, Paul McClean, Barry McIlheny, Rory McConnell, Davy Sims, Mickey Bradley and John Kelly while Radiohead were among the programme’s many guest presenters. Contributors have included Ralph McLean, Colin Murray, Joe Lindsay, Phil Taggart, the late Uaneen Fitzsimons and Mark Carruthers among many, many more.

The programme also made the leap to television, with the series Beyond the Line, followed on by ATL TV, ATL Vital and ATL Rockschool – the latter of which featured a young band who would go on to become Two Door Cinema Club, and was an early adopter of online content and coverage of local musicians and festivals.

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