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Shan McAnena: My festival favourites

Everything we are presenting is fantastic, but this is a list of some very different things that should prove popular with different audiences:

For festival first-timers

We have nearly 60 free events taking place providing the perfect opportunity to sample festival without having to dip into your purse. Among the highlights will be:

Pop-Up Festival — featuring the stunning vocals of Muntu Valdo and Ayanna Witter Johnson — Connswater Shopping Centre, Forestside Shopping Centre and Victoria Square.

Minimum Movement — a public art installation at Custom House Square featuring 1,517 individual ice sculptures in commemoration of the lives lost on the Titanic.

For the family

There’s a Monster in My Piano — an offbeat jazzy tale featuring puppets, clowning and animation that will delight adults and children alike. Brian Friel Theatre, October 23-25.

Enchanted Garden — a firm festival favourite returns this year but with a difference. Do you believe in fairies? They’re all around us — in the twinkling trees of Botanic Gardens. Come to the park at night and watch everything come to life. Botanic Gardens, November 1-4.

Perfect Premieres

We have a number of firsts at this 50th Festival and now is your chance to watch some world and Irish premieres on the stages of Belfast.

Huzzies — Katie Richardson’s brilliant collection of specially commissioned songs is performed by a stellar cast of actor-musicians in this epic tale of a girl band and their journey to success. The MAC, October 19-November 3.

Enquirer — the acclaimed National Theatre of Scotland and London Review of Books co-production based on interviews with leading figures in the newspaper industry in the UK comes to Belfast for its Irish premiere, October 26-November 4, Lesley Buildings, Fountain Street.

Just for Laughs

Comedy is back by popular demand and the programme that is on offer is sure to make every generation lol!

Comedy 4 Kids — not just for grown-ups, absurdist genius James Campbell is a stand-up comedian for children, their parents and anyone who likes comedy without the rude words. The White Room, October 27&28.

Jon Richardson — the host of Channel 4’s Stand Up for the Week, team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats, Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee and best-selling author makes his Belfast Festival debut. The White Room, October 26&27.

The Next Big things

For the last half century Festival has featured many performers before they made it to the big league. This year is hopefully no exception and two to look out for are:

Gabby Young and Other Animals — as famous for her extravagant costumes as for her soulful voice, her flamboyant show has been likened to Florence + the Machine and Paloma Faith. The White Room, October 31.

Gregory Porter — Best Jazz Vocal Grammy nominee Porter exploded onto the international music scene only two years ago with his debut album Water. Audiences have eagerly been awaiting his next album, Be Good, which is set to surpass all expectations. The MAC, October 28.

Belfast Telegraph