Belfast Telegraph

Festival diary: Director Richard Wakely on his week

By Staff Reporter

Director of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's Richard Wakely has had a whirlwind week since it kicked off last Thursday. He takes us through some of the highlights of his packed and colourful festival itinerary.

I am dealing with 110 events from 18 countries over 17 days. It's preceded by staff working 60-hour weeks in the two months leading up to the festival.

Opening night last Thursday was the worst weather Belfast has seen for years. It was atrocious! We had the challenge of getting everyone in for our opening concert by the Ulster Orchestra. Some musicians were still arriving 10 minutes before it began.

I went down to the front door of the Ulster Hall to thank people for coming because getting through the rain and the traffic was absolutely heroic!

The following morning we were back in very early as we have a morning meeting working out logistics for the day.

On Saturday we took work into community centres. In an eleventh hour booking we also had Jonathan Powell (above), former Blair government adviser and negotiator, talking to a packed house.

Sunday was my son's 17th birthday so I took the first coach to Dublin for brunch with my family and was back for a Basque poet and American fingerstyle guitar champion Muriel Anderson.

It was straight in on Monday morning. Some people have already been working for several hours when I arrive at 7am.

Paul Conroy spoke movingly of his experience working in Syria as a photojournalist. It was so popular that we put in an extra talk.

I spoke at the Arts Council's event on inter-cultural arts on Tuesday, as the issues are so important.

That night our artist in residence Claire Cunningham (top left) opened.

On Wednesday the great 'Mysticssippi blues man' Harry Manx performed a hybrid of Mississppi blues and Indian raga music that got a standing ovation.

I don't miss eating but I do miss sleeping.

You measure the age of trees by their rings, and if you looked at the rings under my eyes on Friday, you could count how many days we were into the festival."

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