The McCracken’s were also enthusiastic cultural activists as well, they played key roles in establishing the famous ‘Belfast Harp festival’ in 1792. The festival took place over a three-day period in the Assembly rooms beside Waring Street between the 11-14th of July 1792. It was an historic festival, the first of its kind in Belfast, which highlighted the discourse of the time and the period which came after.

“It is no exaggeration to say that from those musical and political activities in Belfast, during the summer of 1792, sprang the most significant political effort in three centuries of Ireland’s troubled history and the first genuine movement to study and preserve her ancient culture.”

Edward Bunting is a name worth mentioning when discussing the McCracken’s cultural input. Bunting was one of the most significant traditional music collectors in Irish history, he moved to Belfast when he gained an apprenticeship with the organist William Ware and moved in with the McCracken family at age 11. Bunting would regularly play tunes to the delight of John McCracken especially. When the Belfast Harp Festival was established in 1792 Bunting had the responsibility of transcribing the Irish oral tradition and as a result of his transcriptions a huge spike in interest happened in regards to Irish traditional music. Bunting published the ‘Ancient Music Of Ireland’ in three Volumes. The first volume was published in 1796 with 66 tunes coming from the Belfast Harp Festival itself, the second was published in 1809 and the third was published in 1840.

Mary Ann played a pivotal role in assisting Edward Bunting in his collecting of traditional music, introducing him to people across Ireland, acting as his unofficial secretary and contributed anonymously to the second volume of his work The Ancient Music of Ireland in 1809.