Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Shows that nearly didn’t happen are sold out

A member of the Circus of Horrors with his wince-making speciality act

Shakeseare in the park and Greek tragedy along the waterfront, sticky-taped wrestlers and a circus of horrors, a Dead Body and a handful of Dingledodies, flamenco and flhip flhop, Tina May sings Edith Piaf and Barb Jungr sings Nina Simone ? not a bad looking random selection of events from this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, which kicks off today.

This is the festival which might never have been, had not Ulster Bank stepped in with a significant financial investment to keep the show on the road.

In acknowledging its support, festival director Graeme Farrow refers to 2008 as “a defining year in the history and future of the festival” and talks of “a reinvigorated event, whose future looks bright, thanks to renewed commitment by Queen’s University, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and Belfast City Council, among others.”

And the Belfast Telegraph itself has played no small part in ensuring the survival of this international flagship event, which, for 46 years, has illuminated so many chilly autumn nights, even during the darkest days of the Troubles.

Farrow admits that there were times during the year when he didn’t think he’d be announcing this lean, intriguing 16-day programme.

And what better way to begin than with a weekend of sell-outs?

You will need to know some pretty influential people if you are to get hold of a ticket for the Opening Concert in the company of Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, the creative genius behind some of the best-known film scores of the past 40 years. His Waterfront Hall appearances tonight and tomorrow, with the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra and Belfast Philharmonic Choir, are full to capacity.

You might just about manage to squeeze into the Spiegeltent in Custom House Square at 9pm for an evening of American stand-up with Ed Hamell. Expect some full frontal observations from the man whom the Philadelphia Weekly described as “? scabrously, filthily, twistedly funny.”

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