Tunstall, Costello and Dame Kiri... big names lined up for the 49th Belfast Festival at Queen's
What do a Cuban ballet dancer, a Norwegian jazz legend and one of Britain's most diverse singer-songwriters all have in common?
Well, all will be sharing the bill at this year's Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's, as the first details were revealed today of this year's programme line-up.
The festival, now in its 49th year, will run from October 14-30, and already organisers are promising one of the strongest line-ups ever.
Among the highlights will be one of the world's most popular dancers, Carlos Acosta, who will make his first visit to Northern Ireland when he performs at the Grand Opera House. The Havana-born ballet star has danced with many of the world's biggest companies, including the English National Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre.
For fans of punk and New Wave music, there will be a rare treat as legendary musician Elvis Costello straps on his guitar for a solo concert in the Waterfront Hall. And Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek will play a new festival venue at St Thomas' Church in Eglantine Avenue alongside the Hilliard Ensemble.
On the financial front, the festival is also celebrating good news this year, as it has renewed its partnership with Ulster Bank, which had sponsored the festival for the past three years.
And the event also received good news on funding from the European Union, as it became the only UK festival to receive major financial support from its new 'Cultural Festivals' initiative.
"It is important that our work is recognised at an international level and really puts us on the map," said festival director Graeme Farrow. "There were very few recipients (of EU support) Europe-wide but they include Avignon, Kunsten Festival in Brussels, and the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. It also sends an attractive signal to artists that this is a high quality stage on which to present their work.
"We reach our 50th anniversary next year and, together with additional support from government, we are well placed to celebrate in real style."
Other highlights of the programme announced so far include acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall at the Ulster Hall, and the Irish Sea Sessions, which will bring top musicians including Damien Dempsey and John McSherry together with friends from Liverpool.
And last week, it was revealed that one of the world's greatest opera singers, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, will be making a long awaited return to Belfast with a concert in the Ulster Hall.
Ulster Bank chief executive retail markets, Richard Donnan, said they're "delighted" to be partnering with the festival once again.
"We understand that the arts play a significant role in the community and the modern economy, and we are delighted to be continuing our support of such a prestigious event," he said.
"Audiences for the festival have grown considerably during our partnership to date and this is one of the most high profile events on this island, one which has stood out as a beacon of everything positive Northern Ireland has to offer. We believe that our ongoing support of the performing arts will help to bring the festival to an even wider audience. We will continue to support our hugely successfully community ticketing initiative that we have been offering to community groups for a number of years."
Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, also welcomed the support. "Businesses invest in success and will look to the presence of public funding from the Arts Council as a kitemark of quality," she said.
The full programme will be unveiled in August, and tickets for acts announced can be booked on www.belfastfestival.com
- Elvis Costello, Waterfront Hall, Friday, October 28, 8pm
- Irish Sea Sessions, Ulster Hall, Saturday, October 22, 8pm
- KT Tunstall, Ulster Hall, Thursday, October 27, 8pm
- Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Ulster Hall, Sunday, October 30, 8pm
- Carlos Acosta, Grand Opera House, Thursday-Saturday, October 27-29, 7.30pm
- Jan Garbarek, St Thomas Church, Eglantine Avenue, Friday, October 21, 8pm.