Belfast Telegraph

Stewart Lee is hell-bent on looking back in anger

This year’s festival has notched up controversy, diverse opinions and heated debate. And according to director Graeme Farrow, that’s just the way it should be.

“I don’t see how it’s possible to have a festival of this size and quality without being controversial in some shape or form,” he said.

“But what’s controversial for one person is entirely uncontroversial for another, so I’m not quite sure what the word means.”

Comic Stewart Lee knows what the word means. As the co-writer and director of Jerry Springer — The Opera, he came under a barrage of fire from all manner of groups who, for a variety of reasons, were incensed by the show’s irreverent content. A private charge of blasphemy was taken against him and subsequently rejected.

He’ll be at the Ulster Hall this evening with his new show If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One, in which he is hell-bent on rediscovering his famously angry youth.

A while back, when he found himself writing gags about loyalty cards, he started to get worried. “I realised I had lost my anger and focus,” he said.

“I thought it really must be all over if I was writing about stuff like this.”

Fortunately for his fans the angry young man inside his forty-something self has resurfaced, as you’ll see tonight.

Tomorrow is the birthday of Belfast poet John Hewitt and where better to hold the party than in the bar named after him, The John Hewitt in the Cathedral Quarter.

Three critically acclaimed poets — Jean Bleakney from Belfast, German Eva Bourke and the award-winning Derry poet Colette Bryce — will add their eloquent voices to the chorus of celebration, which kicks off at 7.30pm.

Staying with clever women, Fascinating Aida’s show tomorrow night in the Elmwood Hall may have sold out in double quick time but it would be churlish not to welcome the stalwarts of the Belfast Festival during the bad old days. It’s great to see them again, celebrating 25 years in the business and looking as glam and up for it as ever.

“We’ve programmed events

that have addressed topics such as the recession, women in work, changes in policing, religious and sexual intolerance and the Holocaust, but all I’m concerned with is whether or not they are any good — and they are, or they wouldn’t be in the festival,” said Farrow.

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