Belfast Telegraph

Curtain about to raise on Belfast's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

By Matthew McCreary

What do a trio of iconic Eighties pop stars, a former ‘Young One’ and an Elvis impersonator all have in common?

Take a seat for this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and you’ll soon find out as the 12th festival launches its programme today.

The festival kicks off on April 28 with an eleven-day programme of events spanning the worlds of music, books, comedy and art.

Among the highlights of the programme will be classic Eighties electronic band The Human League, fresh from the launch of their new album, Credo, earlier this month.

Also headlining the festival marquee in Custom House Square will be iconic political rockers Gang of Four, while comedian and The Young Ones star Adrian Edmondson will be bringing punk with a folk twist with his band The Bad Shepherds.

Organisers of the festival — of which the Belfast Telegraph is media partner — say they are pleased with the quality of the programme, especially given the financial squeeze currently being experienced by the arts sector in Northern Ireland in the wake of the recent Stormont budget allocations, which saw the festival receive standstill funding.

“The current squeeze on public funding could have potentially had unfortunate consequences for this year's festival, but we harnessed a tremendous amount of goodwill to pull together, in our view, a quite breathtaking array of artists,” said festival director Sean Kelly.

“Headliners such as The Human League catch the eye, of course, but we would especially like to thank the local artists and suppliers who have lent their support, and in the case of the hit play The Rare Oul’ Times, staging a festival fundraiser at the Grand Opera House.

“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many, the scene is now set for a massive celebration of the arts that will make Belfast the envy of many cities throughout the UK and Ireland.” And Mr Kelly said he was not too worried that the festival would have to compete with the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29 or the Assembly elections on May 5.

“We think we can hold our own,” he said. “For those who didn’t receive an invite to the Royal wedding, we have an equally glamourous Right Royal Variety Show. Although not officially sanctioned by the Royals, we think they would appreciate acts of the calibre of The King aka Jim Brown, DJ Terri Hooley and The Bronagh Gallagher Band.

“We would also invite newly-elected politicians down to our events so they can witness first hand the pleasure the arts brings to thousands of people.”

Other highlights of this year’s programme include cabaret diva Camille O’Sullivan, while hot property Irish musician James Vincent McMorrow will sprinkle a little musical brilliance about the Black Box.

And the comedy strand will also prove particularly strong this year, with such top names as Stewart Francis, the manic musings of Russell Kane, the painfully funny Jeremy Hardy and the professionally annoyed Mark Steel.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Pat Convery said this year’s programme promised “another amazing |line-up for one of Belfast’s most acclaimed and inclusive festivals”.

“The programme not only boasts a dazzling wealth of talent, but is testimony to the ingenuity of the festival team, who have been delivering a festival programme that punches well above its weight.”

For the programme, visit

The best of the bunch as arts festival brings a melting pot of talent to town

The Human League

The Yorkshire trio of Phil Oakey, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall have been icons of pop since forming over 30 years ago.

But their back catalogue goes beyond just the big hits like Don’t You Want Me and (Keep Feeling) Fascination and has secured them a faithful following.

As well as some of the classics, expect to hear new work from their latest album Credo, released last month.

Saturday, April 30, 8pm, Festival Marquee, Custom House Square.

Mike Scott Reading

If you missed The Waterboys’ frontman’s well-received An Appointment With Mr Yeats tour last year fear not, as he will be returning to Belfast to read from his forthcoming memoir of a life in music. With more than 30 years of life on the road and in the studio to draw from, it promises to be a captivating occasion.

Saturday, April 30, 6pm, Black Box, Hill Street.


Cookstown comic Owen O’Neill — one of the funniest stand-ups this journalist has seen in a long time — brings a darker edge to his output with this intense and ferocious one-man play.

The production reveals the innermost thoughts of a vicious serial killer and asks the audience to decide whether he is an avenging angel on a divine mission.

With brutally clinical accounts of his victims’ deaths, it is described as “a challenging — often shocking — and always compelling tale of a man who has taken upon himself the sins of so many, and unleashed on them a terrible vengeance”.

With acclaimed director Rachel O’Riordan also on board this should be enthralling stuff.

Thursday, April 28 & Friday, April 29, 8pm, Baby Grand, Grand Opera House.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Belfast's Harbour Commissioner’s Office will be the evocative venue for this production of the Oscar Wilde classic novella.

The tale of the beautifully boyish Dorian Gray, whose painted portrait charts his decline into sin and self-destruction, will be narrated and staged by actors Michael James Ford, Simon Coury and Michael Winder in what has been hailed by critics as “an exquisite adaptation” and “an invigorating, luxurious piece of drama”.

Wednesday, May 4, 7.30pm, Harbour Commissioner’s Office, Corporation Square, Belfast.

Russell Kane

If the image of the English stand-up strutting his stuff dressed up as Beyoncé on Comic Relief earlier this month wasn’t enough, he’ll be hitting the stage at the Waterfront Studio for this year’s festival.

The triple Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee and co host of ITV2’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here NOW! will be exploring self, family, and the consequences of his dad buying his own council house.

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