Finn McCool, a secret supper club, a Welsh music legend and a gang of crazy fools? Yep, it’s time for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival to step into the spotlight and take a bow!
CQAF is all grown up — it’s now in its 13th year — and director Sean Kelly is as proud as ever of his offspring.
“We’re delighted to be delivering such a strong programme,” he says. “We take that cliché ‘something for everyone’ and make it real. We’ve an eclectic line-up, from comedy legends to musical superstars. And then there’s John Cale. It just gets better and better...”
Teenage Kicks is the unofficial anthem of this year’s programme — coinciding with the festival debut of a certain legendary punk act called The Undertones — and there’s a kick to be had every single night.
He may have called off a Dublin gig recently, but when it comes to Belfast, John Cale (below) knows it’s our time and our place. And he’s set to deliver the goods at Custom House Square later tonight.
The Velvet Underground veteran is looking forward to playing for a Belfast audience and maybe hanging out a bit afterwards. Last time he was here (10 years ago) he was on his own and had to take off pretty much immediately after the show.
This year he's hoping to take in the bright lights and big city with his band.
Cale is joined in this year’s line-up by science stand-up Robin Ince, whose kept audiences here waiting to see him for more than two years. Ince, one half of Radio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage (the other is Brian Cox), will be applying science to the Black Box stage.
Professor Brainstorm was last due in town in the winter of 2010, when he was scheduled to open proceedings for Out To Lunch, but his plane simply refused to leave Gatwick for Belfast. Elsewhere, there’ll be plenty of heat generated at some of the other shows at this year’s festival, not least when pop/rock/art group Yacht hove into town. The US duo are already making waves for their eclectic musical offerings, as well as their willingness to converse with audience members in a Q&A session after their show.
And St Etienne, fronted by indie pin-up girl Sarah Cracknell, will transport us back to their 90s heyday with their cool electronic sounds.
Meanwhile, how do you feel about watching some giant puppets ... er ... getting it on?!
Terra Nova productions will be presenting the Ulster Kama Sutra, and using puppets to help get festival off with a bang.
Then there’s the opening night premiere of local composer Conor Mitchell’s Requiem for the Disappeared.
The piece will be performed in St Anne’s Cathedral, and features the Sparks Youth Choir, the South Ulster Community Band and the internationally renowned soprano Rebecca Caine.
Mitchell’s piece is inspired by the men and women who ‘disappeared’ during the Troubles. The composer has warned audiences the music will pack an emotional punch.
So, can the audience please take their seats as the spectacle is about to begin. Curtain up!