Belfast Festival at Queen's: All the city’s a stage
Feminism, the war on terror and teenage angst are just some of the subjects to be explored through art at this year’s Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s.
From an award-winning Army drama to a jaw-dropping Australian circus, the eclectic 16-day programme will include music, theatre, dance, visual art and the spoken word.
The festival, which hopes to attract up to 50,000 visitors, has established itself as a highlight of Northern Ireland’s cultural calendar, as well as providing a platform to showcase local and international acts.
The festival’s organisers aim to cater for all tastes with this year’s packed programme of events.
Musically, there’ll be a wide mix at the festival, from country to classic, with performances by US singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter and Polish conductor Antoni Wit.
The anniversaries of artists such as Ian Dury and John Lennon will be celebrated, while Fred Astaire’s daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie will host a musical tribute night to him, featuring original film orchestrations and musical numbers.
Local acts taking part this year include Paul Brady, rock band Therapy? and composer Brian Irvine. Highlights of the festival are expected to be the multi-award-winning Army regiment drama Black Watch, which was first seen at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2006 and the awe-inspiring Australian circus performers Circa.
Bangor man Colin Bateman will premiere his first play, National Anthem, while gritty teenage play FML will feature some young people from Northern Ireland.
One performance expected to raise eyebrows is Trilogy, a celebration of the feminine form. Part of the highly-acclaimed act includes a naked ensemble dance.
This year’s festival runs from October 15 to October 30. For more information on the festival programme or to book tickets, log on to www.belfastfestival.com.
From Astaire to Dury, Matthew McCreary picks the best of the shows
- Putting On Your Top Hat — Fred Astaire is brought to life through the music which made him an icon. Among the songs will be classics from Top Hat and Puttin’ On The Ritz. Astaire’s daughter Ava will also give a talk about her life with her father. Ulster Hall, Belfast October 27.
- Mary Chapin Carpenter — the American folk and country artist has scored four No 1 singles and will be supported by fellow star Tift Merritt. Grand Opera House, Belfast October 24.
- Dublin Gospel Choir — there are few better places to celebrate Gospel music than a church and May Street Presbyterian will be the venue for one of Ireland’s top choirs. May Street Church, Belfast October 23.
- An Evening With Michael Palin — the Python’s name was once synonymous with the festival and you can expect plenty of wry tales from life on the road and at the cutting edge of comedy. Whitla Hall, Belfast October 28.
- Black Watch — the controversial play details the experiences of the eponymous Scottish regiment during a tour in Iraq. It has been hailed as a cultural landmark of the 21st century. Girls Model School, October 27-31
- The Habit Of Art — Alan Bennett’s latest work has been a smash-hit success in London. Grand Opera House, BelfastOctober 26-30.
- Hit Me! — The life and rhymes of one of British music’s most cantankerous icons, Ian Dury, are brought to the stage. The show is based on the highs and lows of the Blockheads singer’s life, which was also recently brought to the big screen in the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll this year. Elmwood Hall, Belfast October 29
- Postcards From Dumbworld — One of Northern Ireland’s leading composers, Brian Irvine, returns to the festival. This time the action is set in a bingo hall and follows the interconnected lives of an unusual collection of characters, including KGB agents and giant rabbits. As always with Irvine's work, expect the unexpected.Grand Opera House, Belfast October 21-23.
- Paul Brady with the Ulster Orchestra — Brady has become one of Irish music’s biggest names since first coming to prominence in 1969 with folk group The Johnstons and Planxty. Brady’s songs will be specially orchestrated for the festival concert which will be broadcast live. Waterfront Hall, Belfast October 16.
- Therapy? — the Ulster rockers dominated the thrash scene in the 1990s with hits such as Screamager and Nowhere. They will be back on familiar territory at Belfast's Mandela Hall, the scene of many’s a classic rock gig, with support from fellow NI rockers Axis Of and LaFaro. Mandela Hall, Belfast October 15.