There’s no such thing as a free lunch ... but you can get exceptionally good value for money at our newest arts festival, as Damien Murray finds out
Boasting a lot of variety at very low prices, Belfast’s youngest arts festival, Out To Lunch, offers better value than most January sales, especially in our current financial gloom.
Returning to kick-start the year, this exciting sister festival to the May-time Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is now in its fourth year with a programme that runs for four weeks (until January 25) and now hosts both lunchtime and evening events.
In addition to the musical content (which really comes into its own during the final week of the event), literature and comedy also feature heavily in the line-up, which includes a tango display, a workshop for aspiring stand-ups and a bus tour of Belfast’s famous literary haunts.
This opening weekend sees a burlesque art drawing class, the Paupers’ Ball (including a set by rising local singer, Cara Cowan) tonight and a unique and intimate performance by Belfast’s own Duke Special tomorrow afternoon and evening.
The festival is welcoming some of the biggest talents in the world of comedy including Owen O’Neill, Craig Hill, Shappi Khorsandi, Maeve Higgins and the Edinburgh smash hit, Ivan Brackenbury’s Hospital Radio Christmas Show.
Other major names attending include the UK’s most celebrated black poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart, BBC Jazz Vocalist of the Year Christine Tobin, folk legend Dick Gaughan, trad musician Zoe Conway, artist, writer and rock maverick Billy Childish, and Dungiven-born singing sensation Cara Dillon.
With all lunchtime shows costing just £5 (and including a hot lunch), this mini-festival has grown in stature for its value for money.
Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, the principal funder of the festival, said, “With its strong line-up, an innovative approach to engaging with new audiences and building partnerships with local businesses in the area, Out to Lunch ... makes a major contribution to the creative and economic regeneration at the heart Belfast city centre’s Cathedral Quarter”. For full festival details, visit www.cqaf.com
There is a great musical start to the New Year next week when Nashville-based alt.folk/ pop duo,The Bittersweets — Chris Meyers (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Hannah Prater (vocals, guitar) — make their European debut with gigs at the Real Music Club at Belfast’s Errigle Inn on Thursday and Rathfriland’s Bronte Music Club next Friday night.
Living up to their name, they fuse yellows and blues, sunniness and melancholy, with evocative lyrics and lush arrangements.
On every track of their new album, Goodnight, San Francisco, their recent live set, Long Way From Home, and their 2006 full-length debut, The Life You Always Wanted, The Bittersweets weave a captivating tension between hope and poignancy that rings true.
Massachusetts-born Meyers and Californian native, Prater, discovered their musical similarities in the Bay area after college and, when the band arrived in Nashville two years later, Compass Records was ready to sign them the moment they breathed a word about starting a new album.
Gig round-up: Brendan Quinn and Henry McCullough team up for a couple of local gigs this weekend with performances at The Ballyearl Arts Centre in Newtownabbey this evening and at Omagh’s Strule Arts Centre tomorrow night.
Both men are currently enjoying rave reviews for their respective albums — Quinn’s Sinner Man and McCullough’s Poor Man’s Moon — and are supported by a band which includes Jerome McGlynn, Stephen Quinn, Noel Mc Keary and special guest in Omagh, Dermot Byrne from Altan.