A fanfare of trumpets, a Sixties pop legend, a South African musical troupe and a gripping play about modern journalism are just some of the top flight events which will be getting pulses racing next month when Northern Ireland’s premier arts event rolls into Belfast for its biggest year yet.
The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is celebrating its 50th birthday with a packed programme of events, details of which are being unveiled at a special launch today.
Among the highlights of the festival will be legendary singer Van Morrison, who will perform in an intimate ‘supper club’ setting at the Europa Hotel, while former Kinks frontman Ray Davies will be bringing his own brand of classic pop to the programme.
There will also be a decidedly international flavour to proceedings with acclaimed groups the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club and South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo (famed for their collaboration with Paul Simon on his iconic album Graceland) also jetting in.
The festival kicks off on October 19 with a specially commissioned work by Belfast composer Michael Alcorn.
Fifty Fanfares will see trumpeters placed at strategic locations around Belfast’s Victoria Square to herald the beginning of the festival with a special flourish. It also sets the tone for this year’s programme which will see the action taking place in plenty of unusual locations.
“There is music in shopping centres, churches and museums, comedy at the heart of Queen’s University, theatre in offices, public baths and bars, and art in the open air,” said festival director Shan McAnena.
The festival began life 50 years ago as a small campus-based event.
It was the brainchild of student Michael Emmerson, who helped it develop over the next decade with visiting acts such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Jimi Hendrix and Dizzy Gillespie.
And for this special birthday year, festival organisers are encouraging everyone to get involved, with 60 free events on offer to the public, whilst two-thirds of shows will cost less than £15.
“Bringing international acts to our shores and allowing local talent to shine on a global stage has, and will continue to bring, immense cultural and economic benefits to Belfast,” said vice-chancellor of Queen’s, Professor Sir Peter Gregson.
Chief executive of title sponsor Ulster Bank Jim Brown said: “Marking the festival’s golden jubilee is a tribute not only to the city’s love of the arts, but a salute to those who over the last five decades have grown this festival to its international status.”
“The Belfast Festival at Queen’s is a great example of how this region is confidently moving on,” said Alan Clarke, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
The festival runs from Friday, October 19, to Sunday, November 4. For full programme details and booking facilities, visit www.belfastfestival.com or tel: 028 9097 1197.