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Belfast Festival is back from the brink and ready to make major splash

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 23/07/2015

Richard Wakely, festival director; Roisin McDonough of the Arts Council NI and Stephen Cruise of Ulster Bank help launch the event
Richard Wakely, festival director; Roisin McDonough of the Arts Council NI and Stephen Cruise of Ulster Bank help launch the event
Amanda Coogan

The Belfast Festival is back from the brink - albeit with a slightly different name.

In March Queen's University Belfast revealed it was ending a financial relationship with the international festival that bore its name after more than 50 years of partnership.

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's is no more, after QUB revealed it is stopping annual funding of £129,000, which represented around 13% of the festival's income.

This came not long after the festival's title sponsor, Ulster Bank, cut its funding from £300,000 to £100,000 last year.

It has now been renamed as Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival and will be branching out beyond BT9.

"Our ambition is to work with a range of partners across the city to create a genuinely civic event of arts and ideas of international stature and appeal," festival director Richard Wakely said.

Running from October 9 to November 1 the festival is costing around £800,000 to stage, slightly down from around £900,000 it cost to run last year.

"There is no dilution of quality," Mr Wakely added.

Last night Mr Wakely told the Belfast Telegraph "the show must go on" and a new independent company - simply named Belfast Festival - has been established to secure the future of the event.

He also said the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has shown great faith in the festival and after the "jigsaw of funding and programming" has been put together he is sure the eclectic programme coming up this autumn, which will feature artists and performers from across the globe, will reflect everything Belfast audiences have come to expect in recent years from the festival.

"We have got wonderful and generous public support from the Arts Council, Belfast City Council, The British Council and Tourism NI," Mr Wakely said.

"I am thrilled the Ulster Bank have returned to us with sufficient support for title sponsorship.

"This is their ninth consecutive year of funding the festival, demonstrating the appeal, impact and quality of the festival and the natural synergy we have the bank's own aims and objectives."

This year's Festival Artist in Residence is Belfast-based Amanda Coogan, originally from Dublin. She is described as one of the most exciting contemporary visual artists practising in the arena of performance art today.

The full festival programme is due to be revealed in September.

  • For more information follow @BelfastFestival on Twitter and visit www.belfastinternationalartsfestival.com

Three highlights not to miss

Hallo: Martin Zimmermann from Switzerland is a pioneer of the nouveau cirque movement that has swept Europe in the last couple of decades with its blend of acrobatic feats, theatre, dance and comedy. His latest work, Hallo, can be seen in a unique UK and Irish premiere at The Mac, Belfast.

The Kitchen: A show about the healing power of cooking. The Kitchen is a multi-sensory spectacle from India of arresting sights, smells and sounds, culminating in something for your tastebuds too, at the Grand Opera House. UK and Ireland premiere.

Corners: A series of multi-disciplinary and site specific artist residencies, installations and projects that will take place in unusual locations. Designed by cultural organisations at the fringes of Europe it links cities and artists across the continent including Stockholm, Newcastle upon Tyne, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Rijeka, Belgrade, Gdansk, Bari and of course Belfast. This project is co-presented with Northern Ireland Arts Council.

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