Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Belfast Festival aims to reach out to all of the city's people

Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is  coming to The Mac
Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is coming to The Mac

It's synonomous with BT9 – but bosses want the Belfast Festival to reach out across the city.

The first acts for the 2014 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's have been announced – with the names hinting at an impressive international programme for later this year.

Among the three teaser acts announced is The Schaubuhne Berlin, which will make its Northern Ireland debut at the Grand Opera House in Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy Of The People by the critically acclaimed director Thomas Ostermeier.

The line-up also boasts renowned flamenco dancer Israel Galvan, who is set to dazzle audiences at The Mac in Belfast during his first visit here.

And acclaimed artist Claire Cunningham has been named as the 2014 Festival Artist in Residence, following on from Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada last year.

Claire is in Belfast at the moment searching the city for locations to perform her thought-provoking new work Guide Gods, which has been commissioned by the festival.

She is a disabled dancer who uses her crutches as an integral part of each performance. Guide Gods examines the relationship between faith and disability and will be performed here following its premiere during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, festival director Richard Wakely said his aim was to reach out to as many people as possible in the event's 52nd year.

He said the festival will generate more than £2m for the economy as it welcomes more than 45,000 event-goers. Mr Wakely explained the Queen's Belfast Festival was "not just about BT9".

"We are taking more work out of the Queen's Quarter and city centre into neighbourhoods," he said.

He said his second year in the hotseat had been a thrill and the hard work by his small team was rewarded by the reaction of audiences and quality of performers.

"We are getting enquiries now that we have never had," he added.

"Instead of me going out with a shopping list, we are getting calls for people to consider their show or exhibition for Belfast."

Following funding problems earlier this year, the festival has now secured the cash it needs to keep the event going, subject to contracts being signed. Plans are already afoot for the 2016 event. The director has a message for the people of Belfast.

"There are lot of premieres this year," he said.

"Work that has not been seen in Northern Ireland or on the island of Ireland and some that haven't even been seen in Europe, so we are really stepping up this year.

"I suppose my invitation is just for everyone, all the people of the city, to come out, engage with the festival, to take advantage of the wonderful menu of artists that are coming over and get involved. Get involved with your festival."

Background

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's will deliver an eclectic mix of world-class theatre, music, dance, film, literature and talks in venues all over Belfast from Thursday, October 16 to Saturday, November 1 2014. More shows and booking information will be announced over the coming months. Tickets for the first festival shows revealed can be booked from today direct from the venues or on the festival website www.belfastfestival.com

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