Welcome to The Court House – an independent venue, owned and operated by local music and arts charity Open House. Located on the seafront, right in the heart of the newly designated City of Bangor, County Down, we hope the Court House will become the beating heart of Bangor’s burgeoning music and arts scene.
We have a year-round programme of quality and cutting edge live music, comedy, film, theatre, spoken word, food & drink events, featuring international artists alongside local creatives, and celebrating Bangor’s rich musical heritage. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, we hope you’ll find a warm welcome and an open mind in The Court House.
Open House Core Staff
Director / Programming
Court House Director
Digital Marketing Manager
Open House Board
Jonathon Moore – Chair
Johnny is a Chartered Surveyor with 30 years’ experience practising in both public and private sector firms. He specialises in Urban Regeneration projects and is currently busy advising on the new Belfast Grand Central Station and Weavers Cross developments. Johnny developed a passion for live music growing up in Derry. He moved to Bangor 20 years ago and was thrilled to contribute to the Court House restoration project, recognising it’s potential to become Bangor’s premier music and arts venue, as well as a standout example of community led regeneration.
Stephen Dunlop MRICS
A Bangor native and a Chartered Surveyor with more than 30 years’ experience in urban regeneration and place management, Stephen has a passion for contemporary music and pushing the cultural renewal of Bangor City Centre. As a previous Green Party local Councillor he supports grass roots action that embraces diversity and positive change.
Chris is a Bangor resident with a passion for cultural-led regeneration, and considerable experience working across national government and the private sector, as well as leading his own cultural institutions. He is the founder of the Northern Ireland Science Festival and served as its Director for nine years, leading the festival from its conceptualisation to becoming one of the biggest festivals of its kind in Europe. With a keen interest in music, Chris has served on a range of cultural boards, including as chairperson of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Out to Lunch Festival in Belfast. Currently, he is the Culture Development Manager at Belfast City Council, leading the Culture Unit and overseeing the development of the Cultural Strategy (A City Imagining) and the UNESCO City of Music programme.
David is a retired lawyer. He is a keen painter, musician, singer and historian. As Chair of Ards Comhaltas he welcomed 20,000 visitors to Bangor when it hosted the Ulster Fleadh in 2016. He helped establish the annual Columbanus Cross Community Folk Festival and is presently Vice Chair of The Friends of Columbanus. A stalwart of the local folk scene, he is a regular performer at the Court House Saturday session, and this August marks his ninth year on the critically acclaimed Folk on a Boat, which he describes as “a two hour flow of consciousness peppered by local bawdy songs and Bangor’s hidden history”.
Martin is a chartered accountant and tax adviser who spent 30 years with a global accountancy and consultancy firm. He is now (semi-)retired but continues to provide advice through his own boutique tax advisory business. Away from work, Martin has a wife and three grown up children, and a life-long passion for music, history, cycling and ornithology. He is originally from England but has made Bangor his home for the last 27 years.
Patricia is a qualified occupational psychologist whose main interests are in employee engagement, people development, organisational effectiveness and leading change. She has been involved in providing organisational consulting for more than 20 years for local start-ups through to global companies. She is passionate about community development, music and the arts and has been an Open House Festival volunteer for more than 10 years. Patricia is inspired by the incredible work of the dedicated staff and volunteers at Open House who are making such a difference for our community and is delighted to be on the Board.
Rachel Edwards is a strategist, storyteller, and critical thinker. She is currently employed by the Strategic Investment Board, where her primary role is creating and connecting narratives to solve problems, and shape better experiences for people.
An experienced marketing and communications professional, and certified change management practitioner, Rachel has developed a wide range of strategic campaigns throughout the UK and Ireland, building brands across public, private and voluntary sectors to drive social, economic, and environmental change.
Sarah Jones has worked in the arts and culture sector for almost 20 years. She started at the British Council Northern Ireland, with event management roles at a range of festivals, organisations and venues including Young At Art, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Culture Night and Stendhal. For 13 years she ran The Black Box – an independent arts venue in central Belfast – and is now Director of the Northern Ireland Science Festival.
Stephen brings creative and branding strategic insights, drawing on 30+ years’ experience with some of NI’s leading advertising agencies and best known campaigns. He is Managing Director of krow Ireland, a Fellow of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Past Chair of the NI Group IPA with a seat on the National Council in London, and currently sits on the Council of the NI Chamber of Commerce. Stephen is passionate about Bangor, and is a Committee member of North Down Cycling Club – but don’t hold that against him.
Tim has 25 years’ experience in hospitality and is currently Operations Manager for the multi-award winning Beannchor Group, one of the most highly respected businesses in Northern Ireland. His skills include business management, venue operations and event organisation, and he has a particular eye for identifying gaps in the market. Tim is a keen gig and festival-goer with excellent taste in music. He grew up in Bangor and currently lives in Belfast. But we’re working on it…
Short history on the road to opening
After seven years of hard graft, and support from a great many people, we raised almost £2m through grant aid and donations to fully restore and redevelop this beautiful Victorian listed building and turn it into a working venue.
Originally built as a bank in 1866, it was converted to a magistrate’s court in 1954, hence the name. Decommissioned in 2013 it lay empty until Open House took ownership in December 2020 via Northern Ireland’s first even Community Asset Transfer. This is a big step for Open House, as we change from a festival-based organisation to running a year-round venue – with new staff, new ambitions and the new challenges this brings.
You can read more about the history of The Court House here.
The Court House is owned and operated by registered charity Open House Festival Ltd and run on a not-for-profit basis.
Open House Festival was established in Belfast in 1999 and moved to Bangor in 2013. It has been organically grown and tenderly looked after by two local people, Kieran Gilmore and Alison Gordon, who are still at the helm.
Our mission is to create events and experiences that empower people and transform places. We aim to place creativity at the heart of our town’s identity and economy. We believe that music, art, culture and festival events are the regenerative force that will transform Bangor from its seafront dereliction and failed retail sector into a modern seaside destination.
Alongside The Court House, Open House runs:
Open House Festival – an annual summer festival in August. At the heart of the August Festival is an eclectic programme of lovingly curated bespoke events, including folk on a boat, an island picnic trip, pop-up restaurants, local interest talks and tours alongside a run of shows in the beautiful Bangor Castle Walled Garden which include music, theatre, comedy, spoken word and film.
Seaside Revival – a free vintage festival, celebrating Bangor’s heyday as a thriving seaside town.
Year-round concerts & events – in both Belfast and Bangor – any additional income is re-invested in free events, running costs and projects that create greater social impact.
Street Art – as part of our overall placemaking initiative we have commissioned a number of large street art pieces by local award winning and international street artists. These can be seen in and around the seafront and we will have photos of these for you soon
Charity No: NIC103648 | Company Reg No: NI42872 | Vat No: 408 8908 64