City's landmark arts centre to open
Belfast's new Metropolitan Arts Centre is to open with pledges that the landmark will boost tourism and act as a hub of creativity.
The MAC has been built at a cost of nearly £18 million in the Cathedral Quarter in the heart of the city and contains two theatres and three art galleries.
The site is also home to rehearsal space, a dance studio, workshops, plus a cafe and bar.
The MAC's long-awaited arrival comes on the back of the opening of Titanic Belfast and is being hailed as a symbol of progress.
"The MAC is a stunning new building with a world-class range of facilities - fabulous theatres, an international-quality arts gallery and inspiring performance spaces," said Noirin McKinney, of the Arts Council. "It is a wonderful new home for the arts in the heart of Belfast and its opening programme will be a major attraction to locals, visitors and tourists alike, bringing great art within the reach of all.
"Without doubt, this amazing venue will help drive the night time economy and add value to the cultural tourism offering so important to Belfast at this time."
Early exhibitions will include a focus on the work of Belfast born artist William Conor, plus the iconic Lancashire painter L S Lowry renowned for his images of England's old industrial north.
Len O'Hagan, chair of the MAC board of directors, said the venue could attract international attention: "A world class venue in the heart of our city which makes visual art, theatre, dance and cultural activities accessible to all, can act as a catalyst for our economic regeneration, tourism and will be a hub to nurture creativity."
The organisers have promised a world class programme ranging from blockbuster events and exhibitions, to challenging, experimental new works, as well as home-grown arts and culture.
Minister for Culture Caral Ni Chuilin will attend the official opening with Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland and chairman of the Arts Council Bob Collins.