Belfast Telegraph

Out To Lunch Festival: From Gerry Anderson to Jane Austen

There’s a tribute to the late Gerry Anderson,
There’s a tribute to the late Gerry Anderson,
Shlomo is one of the top acts at this year’s event
Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Simon Armitage

By Linda Stewart

You've had a blowout over Christmas and now you're probably feeling bloated and drained.

So after all the partying, you might be craving a bit of a cultural pick-me-up - and the Out To Lunch Festival could be just the ticket.

The festival starts today and is now in its 10th year, featuring a host of fascinating acts and bringing a buzz to Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

One of the top attractions - a musical tribute evening to the late BBC presenter Gerry Anderson - has sold out, but there are a host of other treats on the menu. Such A Night: A Last Waltz For Gerry features local band The Four Of Us, musicians Anthony Tomer and Matt McGinn offering a celebratory performance of songs from The Band's Last Waltz albums, with proceeds going to Foyle Hospice.

The line-up for the popular festival, which takes in music, comedy and literature, also includes 1960s blues giant Booker T Jones, best known for the classic hit Green Onions. He plays the Black Box at 8pm on January 10.

The event runs from January 2 to 25 and features two Edinburgh Festival smash shows - one woman comedy Cutting Off Kate Bush and Austentatious, an improvised Jane Austen novel comedy play.

Comedy offerings come from Robin Ince, Tom Stade, John Shuttleworth and Tony Law, while singer Christine Bovill channels the 'Little Sparrow' with The Songs And Life Of Edith Piaf.

Meanwhile, Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers also make their Irish debut at Out To Lunch. In recent weeks there have been warnings over the impact of arts sector funding cuts on sister event, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival which takes place in May.

Festival director Sean Kelly said: "It's been tough, but we're delighted, not to say relieved, to have pulled it off for our landmark 10th Out To Lunch.

"But we may have to contemplate a potentially reduced Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in May."

Norin McKinney from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, principal funder of the festival, said: "The Out To Lunch Festival is a major attraction for locals as well as visitors to the city."

For full details of dates and booking, visit the festival page at

The five top festival picks

1 Booka Brass Band - support by Tucan Black Box, today, 8pm

Booka Brass Band are a group of eight musicians that span the length and breadth of Ireland, stretching from Belfast all the way to Cork. With regular shows in venues all over Dublin including The Sugar Club, Whelan's and Twisted Pepper, alongside stomping sets to festival crowds at Electric Picnic, Sea Sessions and Longitude, their unique offering and incredible live energy has brought them an unusual level of success in their first year together.

2 Shlomo Black Box, Sunday January 11, 8pm

Internationally acclaimed beatboxer and World Loopstation Champion Shlomo creates an incredibly energetic live show that is like nothing you will have ever seen before - jaw-dropping, inspirational and totally absorbing. A Guinness World Record holder, Shlomo gave up astrophysics to perform his amazing vocal pyrotechnics. Since then Shlomo has won global acclaim and has also worked alongside some of the biggest names in music including Bjork, Damon Albarn of Blur, Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, The Specials, and even top comedy acts such as the Mighty Boosh.

3 Simon Armitage Tuesday January 13, 1pm

When Simon Armitage burst onto the poetry scene in 1989 with his spectacular debut Zoom! it was clear he would go on to reshape the landscape of contemporary poetry. Since then, he's published 10 collections of poems, two best-selling non-fiction books and a new translation of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight. With the publication of his latest collection Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989-2014, Armitage will read from and talk about his engaging, darkly comic and irreverent work.

4 Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel Black Box, Wednesday January 14, 1pm & 8pm

One of the most talked-about shows on the UK comedy scene, Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel is a comedy play spun in the inimitable style of Jane Austen - and based entirely on audience suggestions. Be it 'Mansfield Shark', 'Darcy & Hutch' or 'I know what you did last season', no two shows are ever the same. A seasoned cast presents an irreverent 100% improvised take on the works of Britain's best-loved novelist. Performed in period costume with musical accompaniment.

5 Opera for lunch - drama, desire and death Black Box, Tuesday January 20, 1pm

As Northern Ireland Opera prepares for its new production of Salome - Richard Strauss's infamous tale of lust and murder - three of Northern Ireland's finest young singers take us on a tour of opera's great femmes fatale.

Sopranos Andrea Delaney and Maria McGrann, and Mezzo-Soprano Helen Aiken will perform arias by composers including Puccini, Mozart and Tchaikovsky in this mesmerising concert.

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