What have a legendary indie band, a former Taoiseach and an ‘idiot priest’ got in common?
They will all be among the line-up at this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, which kicks off in Belfast next month.
The festival is now in its 11th year, and the 2010 programme — running from April 29 to May 9 — promises a packed itinerary of music, comedy, literature, theatre and arts based in and around the Cathedral Quarter area of Belfast.
Since the first event was held in May 2000 the festival has grown steadily to become one of the leading arts festivals in Ireland.
“We had around 67,000 people for our 10th anniversary, and this year should be at least as strong,” said festival director Sean Kelly.
“Every year we learn more and more about what our audiences want. We have managed to retain the audience we have had from the first festival, but we’re also managing to bring new audiences on board.”
Mr Kelly said that the impact of the recession had not been felt as keenly as feared in the festival’s recent box office success.
“Things like sponsorship have been changing in the last couple of years, but we haven’t noticed any downturn in ticket sales,” he said. “My feeling is if we can survive the next year or two we will be in a stronger place when we come out of recession.”
Among the highlights of this year’s programme are legendary rock band Echo & the Bunnymen, who have hit the critical highs once again with their latest album The Fountain.
Also on the music line-up are classic reggae duo Sly & Robbie, who will be performing at the festival marquee in Custom House Square.
There will also be a rare live performance from Northern Ireland
group The Divine Comedy on the eve of the release of their long-awaited 10th studio album, Bang Goes the Knighthood.
Meanwhile, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will deliver a speech as part of the David Ervine Foundation lecture. The lecture proved a hit with the festival audience last year when the guest speaker was ex-PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.
And Father Ted star Ardal O’Hanlon — famed for playing the dimwitted Father Dougal — will also make a return to the festival, following his sell-out performance in 2004.
There will be plenty for movie buffs as well, with renowned critic Mark Kermode visiting not only to read from his highly-acclaimed memoir It’s Only a Movie, but also to take up the double bass as one quarter of roughneck outfit The Dodge Brothers. Broadcasting icon Joan Bakewell and counter-cultural hero Howard Marks will also make their festival debuts.
Lord Mayor Naomi Long said: “In little more than a decade, the festival has become an essential fixture of Belfast’s cultural landscape and can justly claim to be one of the leading arts festivals, not only of our city, but of the island of Ireland as a whole.”
Visit www.cqaf.com or call Belfast Welcome Centre on 9024 6609 for ticket information.