top of page

News & Press

Imagine Belfast - festival of ideas 2021

On March 26, 2021 authors Noel Mclaughlin and Joanna Braniff gave an online presentation entitled The Political Power Of A Film That Might Have Been: Ireland and the Rolling Stones 1965 as part of the Imagine Belfast festival 2021.


Plus a special performance by Belfast rapper Jordan Adetunji - the archive footage in the video below is taken from The Rolling Stones concert in Belfast's Ulster Hall in July 1964.


In this talk, the authors introduce and examine the ‘lost’ debut film made for the Rolling Stones in Belfast and Dublin in 1965. Directed by the enigmatic and controversial Peter Whitehead, Charlie Is My Darling invokes not only the spirit of the United Irishmen but also directly links the disintegrating political and social circumstances in Belfast to the Civil Rights actions in the United States.

The film effectively disappeared for over 50 years through a bizarre set of circumstances, only re-emerging in 2012 on a collector’s DVD in a heavily modified form. The fallout from the making of this film was to profoundly affect many of those involved in this production for years.

In support of these claims, the authors offer a historically grounded analysis of the film, contextualising its images of Ireland, consider how these connect with the musical performances (especially ‘Satisfaction’) and explore how Whitehead’s collectivist ambitions and cinema verité style frames these.

The authors will open-up the connections between the film’s aesthetic, the group’s performance style, choice of repertoire, and Irish mise-en-scène, concluding with an explanation of how this made the political establishment in Britain and Northern Ireland nervous in the foment of the decade’s mid-point.

How Belfast Got the Blues released October 2020

Was the first white European blues singer an Irish woman?

What links The Rolling Stones to the birth of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement?

Did the state suppress the work of a key countercultural director because his film was shot in Belfast in 1965?


This book provides the answers in an engaging and dynamic reconsideration of Belfast’s long-ignored contributions to the popular music and cultural politics of the 1960s.

In an expansive socio-cultural history, Noel McLaughlin and Joanna Braniff explore how popular music engaged with and influenced the global cultural and political currents of the decade.

The popular history of Northern Ireland has been overshadowed by the violence of the Troubles.

How Belfast Got the Blues offers a corrective, reconsidering the period before 1969 and arguing that popular music in Northern Ireland was central to the politics of the time, in ways not previously understood or explored.

By intertwining politics, culture, and unexplored key personalities, the authors reexamine this  radical decade and the complex but essential relationship between music and identity in a place where it could mean the difference between life and death.

Placing Northern Ireland at the forefront of a key moment in British and Irish cultural history, Noel Mclaughlin and Joanna Braniff weave a fascinating account of the popular-musical culture and local ‘scene’ in Northern Ireland with the broader and highly complex context of the social-political milieu, offering original and insightful readings of key 1960s figures, including the early career of Van Morrison and Them, the neglected Belfast blues singer Ottilie Patterson, the provocative film director Peter Whitehead, and The Rolling Stones.  

The book also includes new material, obtained in interviews and through meticulous archival research, to challenge the mainstream narrative of the mid-1960s music scene in Belfast.

By intertwining politics, culture and unexplored key personalities, the authors have fashioned a new lens to re-examine this most radical decade and the complex but essential relationship between music and identity.

Screen Shot 2020-10-16 at 17.21.05.png

Click here to watch author Noel McLaughlin interviewed by James Campbell

of Intellect Books on Instagram Live 14/10/2020

bottom of page