Belfast Telegraph

Rock fans will feel good when Wilko Johnson takes stage

Guitar star back on road after defying doctors

By Amanda Ferguson

When Wilko Johnson takes to the stage in Belfast next month, it will be to an audience who never expected to see him play again.

The former Dr Feelgood guitarist was forced to cancel his performance at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (CQAF) last year after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

Already in his late 60s, the influential rhythm and blues star who also enjoyed a stint with Ian Dury's Blockheads even went on a 'farewell tour' after he was given 10 months to live in 2012.

But after surviving longer, a doctor got in touch, and the guitarist discovered he actually had another rare but curable form of cancer.

Johnson's massive 3kg tumour was removed using radical surgery last April at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

And after struggling with the idea that death is no longer imminent, the self-confessed "miserable so-and-so" is back on the road and is set for an emotional Northern Irish comeback in the Festival Marquee on May 9.

Festival director Sean Kelly said the 2015 CQAF will be "11 days of madness - hopefully we will survive with our sanity intact".

"As everybody knows it has been a very tough year for the arts and the whole entire public sector but we have pulled out all the stops this year to present the best collection of artists and writers and comedians and musicians," Mr Kelly said.

"I can't wait to see Wilko Johnson perform in Belfast after he had to cancel last year through health difficulties.

"It will be a really emotional night as he has had a miraculous recovery.

"I am looking forward to comedy gigs, some great literature from the likes of Paul Muldoon and Val McDermid, and great local theatre from Prime Cut Productions and Greenshoot.

"We have got the best of local theatre represented this year."

The CQAF runs from April 30 to May 10 with a packed programme of cultural delights to tempt fans of comedy, literature, music and theatre.

As well as Johnson, The Stranglers, The Charlatans and Camille O'Sullivan are on the bill.

Damian Smyth from the Arts Council told the launch audience the arts have been "savaged" by Stormont cuts and praised the festival team for putting together such a "wonderfully, wilfully different" programme.

For more information visit


1 COMEDY: David O'Doherty Has Checked Everything - Festival Marquee April 30

2 THEATRE: Shot Glass presents Three Strikes - The Dark Horse May 4&5

3 SPECIAL EVENT: Belfast Tease-O-Rama burlesque and disco - Festival Marquee May 3

4 LITERATURE: Tracey Thorn, Naked at the Albert Hall - The Black Box May 10

5 COMEDY: Andrew Maxwell - Festival Marquee May 6

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