ACTING superstar Liam Neeson has a new lead role – helping to promote his home town.
Neeson, who grew up in Corlea Gardens, features on a series of new interpretive boards dotted on town centre streets entitled ‘Get into Ballymena’.
The boards give interesting facts about the town and highlight a number of successes in Ballymena.
A Mid & East Antrim Borough Council spokesman said: “Ballymena’s public realm scheme works are currently being finalised as part of the £4 million investment in the town centre.
“Information panels have also been installed throughout Ballymena to promote and celebrate the town’s rich heritage and proud history.”
Neeson’s message features on a panel at one of the busiest areas of the town – at the junction of Wellington Street and Bryan Street outside the Tower Centre.
The sign is around a quarter of a mile from his old home.
Neeson’s sign is about the buzzing arts culture in Ballymena in a panel entitled: ‘Creativity runs through this town’.
The panel headlines with a quote from Neeson saying: ‘Ballymena has always had a deep, creative, pool in all the arts’.
The panel then also states: ‘Could it be Ballymena’s long tradition of storytelling that nurtures our talent in the arts?
‘Screen giant Liam Neeson learned his craft with the local Slemish Players before making his name in films like Schindler’s List, Star Wars and Les Miserables.’
Another actor – James Nesbitt – also get a mention.
The sign says: ‘James Nesbitt, seen by millions in The Hobbit, has starred in many popular television series.’
The interpretive board also says that for generations the town has been home to Ballymena Festival of Music, Speech and Dance and adds: “Our acclaimed orchestras, choirs, dancers, musicians, actors, artists and craftspeople continue to champion our love of creativity’.
Another sign features the famous Flamingo dance hall in Ballymena and in particular the legendary night the Rolling Stones rocked the venue in 1964.
Neeson, who was made a Freeman of Ballymena in 2013, has regularly helped promote the town and surrounding areas like Cushendall, two areas he often visits.
Earlier this year he was involved in selecting the new name of a Ballymena town centre entertainment structure at Broadway. Local schoolkids were asked to come up with a name and Neeson selected the title.
Commenting on the name, ‘Harmony Hub’, Neeson said: “All the entries were excellent and the children have caught the town’s shared community aspect of the structure.”
Earlier this year Neeson gave a publicity boost to tickets sales by making a special video urging the public to attend a performance of Romeo & Juliet by The Friends Drama Group and The Glens Drama Group in Cushendall.
In 2016 Neeson took part in a special video urging Cushendall’s hurlers to bring back the All-Ireland club trophy.
He used to play hurling when he attended the St Patrick’s Secondary School in Ballymena.
Also in 2016 he made a special video which was shown on a huge screen at a town centre rally in Ballymena calling for more jobs following announcements about the closures of the JTI cigarette factory and the Michelin tyre plant.
Also that year, the star, an advocate of integrated education, visited Slemish College in Ballymena to help them celebrate their 20th anniversary.