Belfast's Cathedral Quarter to Introduce New Enhanced Weeknight Experience

First Thursdays initiative will offer an extended monthly showcase of the city's cultural hub with special offers, openings hours and more

Weekends are set to get off to an earlier start once a month in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter with a new initiative designed to offer a richer taste of what makes the area a colourful hot spot for arts and culture.

From August 3 'First Thursdays' will become an essential date in the city's social calendar as an array of venues, galleries, bars and businesses stay open longer and put on 'something a little extra' to create a 'full exhilarating Cathedral Quarter experience' for locals and visitors.

Over 30 organisations are coming together for the monthly showcase which includes 'street market, live music, street performers, exhibitions, area tours, children’s workshops and storytelling, free activities and special offers on food and drink around every corner, inside and out.'

Paul McErlean, Chair of the Destination CQ BID behind First Thursdays says: 'This area is home to many of the city’s leading cultural venues, organisations and festivals as well as a vibrant mix of hospitality, business and public organisations. First Thursdays is an opportunity to see just how many fantastic activities are on offer here in just one day. It’s about moving from one place to another, from work to a restaurant, bar, gallery or gig, and all the characters you meet along the way.'

Launching as part of First Thursdays is a temporary window gallery project called Inside Out, which McErlean said 'will see artists collaborate with over twenty local businesses across the area to proudly display their work to the public in the windows of premises as varied as offices, shops and restaurants.'

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Niamh Fitzpatrick spreads the word about First Thursdays in Belfast

Benen Dillon, artist and coordinator of the project will be giving special guided tours on August 3. 'Not everyone may think to enter a gallery exhibition space during their normal day, so with Inside Out, the gallery comes to them, surprising the public with wonderful artworks in unusual venues,' he explained. 'On the tour you can meet some of the artists and business owners who make the Cathedral Quarter what it is today and help us celebrate their continued contribution with an exhibition that lets you get to know the place, inside and out.'

In addition to Inside Out, the inaugural First Thursday will have interactive storytelling by Young at Art in venues across the quarter, an outdoor Ceili, live music in every bar plus food and drink offers including bubbly in Malmaison and gin night in Bullitt Hotel.

There’s also a series of live performances across the Cathedral Quarter presented by Belfast Trad Summer School, performance from Belfast Circus School and exhibitions at the MAC, Arts and Disability Forum, PS2 Gallery, Belfast Exposed, Cotton Court Studios and Ink Monkey Art, Artcetera and Fenderesky galleries.

Finally, there will be special openings from residing cultural organisations such as Discover Ulster Scots and NI War Memorial, tours of Belfast Street Art and St Anne’s Cathedral, a Kids Space in St Anne’s Square and even more street performance and animation to illuminate and entertain in the spaces between.

First Thursdays kicks off at noon on Thursday August 3 in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast. For full programme details go to www.firstthursdaysbelfast.com.