The cobbled streets and converted warehouses of one of Belfast’s oldest neighbourhoods will come alive in a riot of colour and music next week as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival kicks off.
This marks the 11th time the festival has been held and organisers have promised an even bigger and better programme.
Among the highlights of this year’s festival — which runs from Thursday April 29 until Sunday May 9 — are legendary indie rockers Echo & The Bunnymen, who will be performing at the Festival Marquee, which is being erected at Custom House Square.
Legendary reggae producers and artists Sly and Robbie will also be bringing an exotic flavour to the programme, while local lads The Divine Comedy will be performing some of their biggest hits to festival-goers.
The programme also includes well-known faces from the world of TV and comedy, including veteran broadcaster Joan Bakewell, who will be talking about her new book, All The Nice Girls.
Cult film critic Mark Kermode will also be regaling audiences with his tales of life among the stars of the big screen, as well as performing with his skiffle band The Dodge Brothers.
And Father Ted star Ardal O’Hanlon will also be topping the bill in the stand-up comedy strand this year, along with the dry wit of Reginald D Hunter and cheeky Dublin star Andrew Maxwell.
“There has been a great response to this year’s programme,” said festival director Sean Kelly.
“Sales are up 20% on what they were this time last year, which is a great position to be in.”
Mr Kelly said the festival had come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2000, when just a handful of acts performed.
“We have learned a lot about what our audience wants over the
years and have tailored our programme,” he said.
“There is a huge interest in comedy and a lot of the shows have sold out. We have also noticed a resurgence in live music, moving away from digital and recorded acts; people seem to really enjoy the experience.”
Mr Kelly said audiences were also coming from further afield to enjoy the lure of the big names on this year’s programme.
“We have been advertising in national newspapers and have noticed an effect,” he said.
“We are taking bookings from across the UK and internationally.”
He said the appeal of the festival lay in its location within Belfast.
“The venues are all centrally located so it is accessible to all of the city,” he said.
For details of the programme visit www.cqaf.com/ tel: 028 9024 6609 or call in to the Belfast Welcome Centre, 47 Donegall Place, Belfast