The Belfast Festival at Queen's is on course to be a sell-out this year with box office takings already reaching £300,000 less than a fortnight after the programme launch, it was revealed today.
Magners Comedy events with Bill Bailey, Frank Skinner, Grumpy Old Women Live and Macbeth at Crumlin Road gaol have already sold out, while talks with John Simpson and Sir Ranulph Fiennes and concerts by The Chieftains, Duke Special, John Prine and Iron and Wine look set to follow suit.
Graeme Farrow, festival director, said: "The appetite for this year's programme has been phenomenal. It is clear that we provide something unique and attractive that isn't being satisfied by the traditional offer of venues and concert halls throughout the rest of the year.
"There's no better argument to safeguard the long-term future of this event than full houses and I believe there has never been a better time for this festival to flourish in Belfast and to help the city realise its potential as a cultural destination."
Other highlights of the festival programme include concerts with German cabaret superstar Ute Lemper, Classical Brit Singer of the Year 2006 Andreas Scholl and gospel greats the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Grand opera House and Kylie Minogue choreographer Rafael Bonachela's Dance Company at the Waterfront Studio.
Mr Farrow said: "It's in the less familiar reaches of a festival programme that the real gems are to be discovered.
"If you're a theatre fan, for example and don't see Sclavi and Truth in Translation, then believe me, you'll be missing out on the extraordinary."
Last year the Belfast Telegraph successfully fronted a campaign to save the Belfast Festival at Queen's, which was under threat due to a funding crisis.
For information and bookings for all events, call 9097 1197 or drop into the festival box office at Queen's Film Theatre.