Sir Kenneth Branagh delighted to receive the Freedom of Belfast

Sir Kenneth Branagh says he is "humbled" to receive the Freedom of Belfast Credit: Presseye

Sir Kenneth Branagh has said he is "very moved" to receive the Freedom of Belfast.

The Hollywood film director and actor lived in the city up until the age of nine. Sir Kenneth said he associated his childhood here with the feeling of freedom.

He added: "It is very humbling and frankly amazing to follow in the footsteps of so many extraordinary people including very fine artists and particularly, and especially last year, the nurses of Belfast, which I think was an amazing, brilliant, perfect choice from this city to honour people who do such an important thing and have done for so long. So, that is a humbling thing to be mentioned in the same breath."

Poet Michael Longley and singer/songwriter Sir Van Morrison are among past recipients.

Sir Kenneth received the freedom at a special event in Belfast's Ulster Hall on Tuesday evening and a pop-up film festival has been taking place to showcase his best-known works around the city.

He has directed and starred in film adaptions of Shakespeare plays and has acted in blockbusters like Dunkirk. He also directed last year's box office hit Murder on the Orient Express.

In the 1980s Branagh played a central role in the Billy plays which portrayed a Protestant working-class family in Belfast which helped propel him to prominence with a UK-wide audience.

Sir Kenneth said he was struck by how far the work travelled, how immaterial it was that it was set in Belfast because it was about working-class life and difficult family situations and social problems.

He added: "Northern Ireland mirrored a million other places. I was spoilt by what a fine piece of work that was."

Fantasy drama Game of Thrones, filmed in Northern Ireland, has been a "huge success" for the local industry Sir Kenneth said.

He added: "It is smart and it has been long-term, and it is a real strong example to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world is watching, as you know."