Stages, galleries and screens across Belfast will come alive with colour from today as the cream of local and world talent gather for one of the city's top cultural highlights.
The Belfast Festival at Queen's kicks off its two-week run tonight with a spectacular opening show at the Waterfront Hall featuring the Ulster Orchestra playing alongside Irish music legends The Chieftains.
And with nearly a third of festival shows already sold out, organisers are expecting the event will once again be a massive hit with the public.
"During the first weekend of this year's Belfast Festival we've got the 2007 Booker Prize winner, an Oscar-winning film director and Ireland's Grammy Award-winning musical ambassadors. We've only just begun and yet we've already amassed over half a million pounds in advance ticket sales," said festival director Graeme Farrow.
Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph joined forces with festival organisers in a major campaign aimed at saving the event from possible closure.
Last year it was revealed that, despite earning its highest ever gross box-office, the festival was running at an estimated annual deficit of around £150,000. Queen's University announced then that it would no longer be able to meet the shortfall.
A last-minute funding lifeline from then Arts Minister Maria Eagle helped maintain the festival for this year, but the long-term future of the event is still uncertain.
Following tonight's Ulster Bank Opening Concert, culture vultures can expect a lively line-up of theatre, comedy and music acts over the first weekend, including a night of Scottish songs and poetry at the Spiegeltent in Custom House Square, while local author Glenn Patterson and 2007 Booker Prize winner Anne Enright will be delivering a talk on their new books tonight in the Harty Room at Queen's University.
And fans of all things Hogwarts-based won't want to miss Potted Potter, a whistle-stop performance of all the Harry Potter books in just 60 minutes at the Lyric Theatre.
Newly-appointed Children's Laureate and much-loved children's writer Michael Rosen will present an engaging talk based around his own works and the great fantasy writers for children, including Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien at the Great Hall in Queen's this Sunday.
Comedy fans will also be in for a treat as top stand-up Sean Lock arrives at the Elmwood Hall tomorrow evening, while hugely popular comic duo Grimes and McKee present their first full-length play for Tinderbox Theatre Company, The Duke of Hope, at Queen's Drama Theatre from tonight.
Roisín McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: "As the festival's longest-running supporter, the Arts Council is delighted this year to be able to help the festival to continue to offer its customary eclectic mix of events and to carry on its tradition of bringing over headline international arts to Belfast."
For further information and booking for all Belfast Festival events, contact the Festival Box Office on 028 9097 1197 or visit www.belfastfestival.com