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In Pictures: The MAC opens in St Anne's Square, Belfast

Belfast's new Metropolitan Arts Centre - to be known simply as the MAC - officially opened on Thursday after 10 years of planning.

^^Click 'More Pictures' to launch gallery^^

The £18 million building, which boasts cutting-edge design and features two theatres and three art galleries, is the crowning glory of a long-running redevelopment of the historic cobbled streets which circle St Anne's Cathedral, now dubbed the city's Cathedral Quarter.

The MAC is the latest in a string of major attractions opening this year in Northern Ireland, including the recently launched Titanic Belfast building and the new-look Giant's Causeway visitors' centre which will be unveiled in June.

Chief executive of the MAC Anne McReynolds said of the latest addition: "Today is a momentous occasion, not just for the MAC but for the arts in Northern Ireland. We have all worked extremely hard to create a world-class facility in the heart of this city.

"We have created a programme which will appeal to audiences of all ages and interests from the international art and live shows to our family workshops and our cafe/bar. We can't wait to start welcoming visitors to the MAC from today to really see the building come to life.

"This project has been 10 years in the making and we would like to thank our many public and private sector funders and all our supporters who have helped us get to this stage. We are confident that the MAC will add another layer to the cultural offering in Belfast and Northern Ireland to help put this region on the worldwide stage."

Sinn Fein Minister for Culture Caral Ni Chuilin and Democratic Unionist Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland were among the officials who helped mark the MAC's opening.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, councillor Niall O Donnghaile, said: "I'm delighted to see the opening of the MAC, which is not only Belfast's brand new creative arts venue but one that will put the city on the international map in terms of its unique and rich cultural offering. Coming so soon after the opening of the iconic Titanic Belfast building, it once again conveys that Belfast in 2012 can compete with cities across the globe for world-class visitor attractions."

The venue has been built with the support of principal funders the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the departments of culture and social development, plus significant funding from Belfast City Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Monument Trust, Ulster Garden Villages and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.

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