Dance stars to help Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's to hit new highs
More than 100 events, 26 premieres and creative talent from 18 countries – so it can only be the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's which has launched its international programme of dance, film, music and theatre.
This year's event runs from October 16-November 1 at various city venues.
Acclaimed disabled dance artist Claire Cunningham is arriving in Belfast today to start her role as 'artist in residence' for the 2014 event.
Claire's appointment is seen as a symbol of a festival that continues to push boundaries and encourage debate.
The Scottish choreographer and singer is known for imaginative performances using her crutches.
Festival director Richard Wakely said: "We are thrilled to be welcoming Claire as our artist in residence for 2014.
"As a choreographer and performer Claire is a genuine inspiration – a breathtaking talent – and we are privileged to be working with her," he said.
Mr Wakely added: "We strive to spark debate, showcase diversity in its broadest sense and demonstrate that the arts can entertain, delight, inspire and transform."
Two of the world's leading theatre directors – Peter Brook and Thomas Ostermeier – are bringing productions to Belfast. Also in the line-up is a host of leading ladies in theatre, dance and music, including four-time Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, legendary soulstress Bettye LaVette, celebrated actress Charlotte Rampling and two-time Princess Grace Award-winning choreographer Camille A Brown.
One of the key elements of this year's programme is the new Embrace initiative supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which will bring audiences up close to artists in a series of masterclasses, workshops and talks.
Arts Council chief Roisin McDonough said: "It's a fabulous programme this year, offering the chance to experience extraordinary performances from the likes of Schaubuhne Berlin or indeed the amazing Charlotte Rampling, alongside work from local companies like Kabosh with 20 or Replay with Tiny – possibly Festival's youngest ever audience of little people aged 0-12 months old."
- For tickets and more information visit belfastfestival.com. Most of the events are under £15 and 23 shows are free
Five highlights you can't afford to miss
1. The return of the Music Club venue at the Elmwood Hall. Joining Dianne Reeves and Bettye LaVette will be Tamikrest.
2. An exhibition presented by Belfast City Council at Crumlin Road Gaol entitled From Bolshoi to Belfast is a collection of ballet and opera costumes from Bolshoi Theatre.
3. The Big Big Sing at the Whitla Hall on October 25. Led by experienced choirmasters, it is open to everyone, regardless of experience. The initiative is supported by Glasgow 2014, Creative Scotland, Glasgow Unesco City of Music and Spirit of 2012 Trust.
4. The 2014 Classical programme will open the festival with the Ulster Orchestra's Four Moods in Music featuring violinist Valeriy Sokolov and includes performances from renowned classical pianist Roland Pontinen in the Clonard Monastery; winner of the Best Chamber Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society, the Schubert Ensemble, who will play at St Gerard's Church, and the Irish premiere of Trio Rafale who perform in the Swiss Ambassador's Concert.
5. A century of Chinese cinema will be celebrated in connection with QFT and the British Film Institute.