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Thousands to savour 11th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

Josh Ritter

Poets and politicians, singers and stand-ups, clowns and ceilis... this year's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival kicks off tomorrow with something for everyone and plenty for seconds, too.

It's the 11th year that the area around St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast is transformed into a hub of entertainment for 11 days and nights.

Director Sean Kelly is particularly proud of 2010's line up. Among the 140 events which are taking place in more than 20 venues, he mentions: “Ardal O'Hanlon, Sly and Robbie, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joan Bakewell, Reginald D Hunter, The Divine Comedy, Sharon Shannon... it just gets better every year.” And he hasn’t even mentioned former Interpol pin-up and drugs smuggler Howard Marks, writer John Connolly and film critic Mark Kermode, who'll all be entertaining festival audiences with tales about their day in the office.

A couple of years ago, American singer Josh Ritter was named one of the 100 best living songwriters. Today, he's spoken of in the same breath as Dylan and Springsteen.

On Thursday night, he'll be storming the festival marquee with his Royal City Band for the hottest gig at festival. There'll be a dollop of cool jazz as Miles Davis' Kind of Blue Sessions are brought to life in a show by local jazz cat Linley Hamilton.

Nice. And if you prefer your music loud and proud, then Oh Yeah's Time to be Heard concert is for you. Some 35 bands from the era of Good Vibrations — including performers from Rudi, the Outcasts and St Vitus Dance — will be digging out the hair gel, buffing up their braces and giving it what for in a show that could, if you thought about it, also double up as a fond farewell to the man behind the movement, Malcolm McLaren.

We all know about street theatre — what about street dancing? The Crossroads Ceili is back — an afternoon when the cobbled streets of old Belfast come alive to the sound of jigs and reels.

This year's David Ervine Memorial talk takes place on the day of the General Election. Guest speaker, former Taioseach Bertie Ahern, will be telling audiences about his determination to find a way through the political quagmire of Northern Ireland. How glad must he feel to be avoiding kissing babies and knocking on doors in another election campaign.

Elsewhere during festival, broadcaster and writer Joan Bakewell — today a champion for older people — will be talking about her life and times, why she waited until she was in her 70s to write her first novel, and how she’s coped with the ‘thinking man’s crumpet’ label that’s been swinging around her neck for more than 40 years.

But there's so very much more to see and do between now and May 9. Log on to www.cqaf.com for further information.

Belfast Telegraph