Belfast Telegraph

Majestic line-up unveiled for Queen's Golden Jubilee festival celebrations

By Matthew McCreary

Fifty years ago an enterprising young university student unveiled the programme for the very first Belfast Festival at Queen’s, little knowing it would become one of the biggest arts festivals in the UK and Ireland.

And that very same entrepreneur, Michael Emmerson, will be just one of the guests of honour at this year’s 50th anniversary Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the first details of which have been announced.

Among the highlights of this year’s programme will be concerts by music heavyweights including Van Morrison — who will host a pair of intimate ‘supper club’ performances at the Europa Hotel — as well as opera star Lesley Garrett in the evocative surroundings of Clonard Monastery. The monastery will also play host to a rare performance by Polyphony, described as “possibly the best small choir in the world”.

The much-missed comedy strand will also be returning to the programme with a special tent on the front lawn of the university, and a line-up that includes rising star Jon Richardson, as well as James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids.

There will also be a blast from the past with a reunion of the Folk Club, in the Elmwood Hall, while there will be a decidedly international flavour with the return of Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa and the Buena Vista Social Club from Cuba. And in honour of Mr Emmerson, who has lived in Mexico for several years, there will also be a number of acts from the country, including Mr Emmerson’s wife, acclaimed flautist Elena Duran.

Organisers are billing this as one of the biggest and best festivals to date, as it will be taking place within one of the most important years for tourism in Northern Ireland. It nevertheless follows what has been a rather unsettled period for the event, with the departure of two festival directors within the past year — Graeme Farrow, who served as director from 2006, to take up a post with the Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 team last summer and his successor, Londoner Mark Prescott, who left earlier this year after less than six months in post.

The festival’s new director, Shan McAnena, said that these first announced acts would “whet the appetite” among festival-goers for more big announcements in the next few weeks.

“Our vision this year is to celebrate the past but also to deliver new experiences, encouraging new audiences to ‘get in on the act’,” she said. “We want to engage, excite, inspire and even provoke audiences with an eclectic mix of performances. It will be a great celebration of culture for everyone to be part of.”

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of Arts Council and the festival’s principal public funder, also added: “As always the range of local and international talent that will be on offer throughout the festival is as tantalising as anywhere else on the island of Ireland.”

The 2012 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s runs from October 19 to November 4. Visit www.belfastfestival.coms

First acts announced

50 Trumpets — Michael Alcorn

Friday, October 19

Belfast City Centre

Folk Club Reunion

Friday, October 19

Elmwood Hall

An Evening with Van Morrison

Saturday, October 20

Europa Hotel

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Sunday, October 21

Waterfront Hall

Abandoman

Tuesday, October 23

Lanyon Lawn Tent

|||Jon Richardson

Friday & Saturday, October 26&27

The Lanyon Lawn Tent

James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids

Saturday & Sunday, October 27&28 The Lanyon Lawn Tent

Turn Down the Lamp

Friday & Saturday, October 26&27

The Black Box

Buena Vista Social Club

Tuesday, October 30

Ulster Hall

Lesley Garrett, Emma Johnson and Andrew West

Tuesday, October 30

Clonard Monastery

Pate de Fua

Wednesday, October 31 & Thursday, November 1

Elmwood Hall

Polyphony

Wednesday, October 31

Clonard Monastery

Enchanted Garden

Wednesday, October 31 to November 4

Botanic Gardens

Michael Emmerson

Friday,|November 2

Great Hall, Queen’s

Van Morrison Supper Club

Friday,|November 2

Europa Hotel

Elena Duran

Saturday, November 3

Harty Room

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