Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Comes of Age

Belfast's most dynamic annual arts offering celebrates its 18th birthday with a suitably bold programme of music, comedy, theatre and more

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival hits its landmark birthday with all the bravado and naïve swagger of a typical 18 year old next month as it returns from April 27 to May 7 to transform Belfast’s city centre with an exuberant riot of live music, comedy, spoken word and visual arts plus a host of other eclectic, electric tidbits.

Launch guests at the Duke of York pub were amongst the first to discover this year's full festival programme which features over 150 events across 30 venues – an electrifying mix of the big and the brash, the up-and-coming and the weird and the wonderful.

The busy music line-up boasts live performances from Booker T Jones, The Handsome Family, Divine Comedy, Sugarhill Gang, Kevin Rowland, Cara Dillon, Robert Cray, Breathe – The Pink Floyd Experience, Dana Masters, Interskalactic, Chip Taylor, Kíla, Brix and the Extricated, The Parrots, Madison Violet, Duke Special and Ulaid, Ryan McMullan, The Comet is Coming, Keith James singing the songs of Leonard Cohen, Tir na Nog, Wreckless Eric, Josienne Clark and Ben Walker, Christine Bovill singing Edith Piaf, Harlow Fair, and Artist-in-Residence for the festival, Rosie Carney.

Meanwhile there's comedy from Tony Law, Rich Hall, Sofie Hagan, Jeremy Hardy, Bridget Christie, Kieran Hodgson and Richard Herring, to name a few.

Elsewhere in the programme, the highlights include former Spider from Mars Woody Woodmansey talking about his turbulent, exciting years as one of Bowie’s most famous backing band, and glorious verse from legends Roger McGough and Linton Kwesi Johnson. There's also food writer 'a girl called' Jack Monroe and a red hot theatre programme including Prime Cut’s award-winning Scorch, the Irish premiere of Omnibus Theatre’s acclaimed 'Peru Two' production Mule and Splodar Theatre’s delicious Joycean homage Young Stephen.

The film programme includes the first NI screening of Lost in France – the celebrated documentary on the startling rise of Scotland’s indie music scene of the '90s, Bang! – the tale of Bert Berns - the most famous '60s songwriter that you’ve never heard of, and folk horror mayhem with Sing-along-a-Wickerman.

Speaking at the launch, Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: 'Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival continues to invigorate the cultural life of Belfast city centre through its highly creative programme of music, theatre, literature, comedy, visual arts and talks. It also provides an important platform for showcasing local artists alongside world-class national and international performers and brings people and communities closer together through a shared enjoyment of the arts.'

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston, commented: 'The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival can truly be described as one of the jewels in our cultural crown, having grown from its relatively modest roots to one of our most vibrant and best loved arts events. It also is one of the most accessible festivals of its kind, especially in relation to its policy of keeping ticket prices as low as possible, using the widest range of venues and staging a wide variety of events to suit all tastes.

'It was back in 1999, as we stood on the cusp of a new millennium, that Martin Lynch and a few other like-minded visionaries had the idea of starting an arts festival in the Cathedral Quarter, the historical centre of the city of Belfast. At that time, the Cathedral Quarter was not the vibrant arts and cultural hub that it is today: there is no doubt that the festival has been in large part responsible for regenerating this important area of our city.

17554334_1372508879463903_7218153180465383329_n.jpg

'Of course, while the festival has endured and grown, the past two decades have not been without their challenges, especially in relation to funding. Many of these challenges still face both the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and our arts and cultural sectors in general. But, through these uncertain, and trying times, the festival has had a steady hand at its tiller, and I congratulate director Sean Kelly, and his team, for being that guiding light and pursuing the progressive ethos of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, not only over the past 18 years but, I hope, for many, many more years to come.

'Congratulations on another great programme. I’m looking forward to trying to get to a few of the events myself.'

Festival director Sean Kelly said he was thrilled to be able to offer audiences such an impressive array of quality, affordable acts.

17634396_1372508586130599_1409262978791441941_n.jpg

'To say we’ve hit our 18th birthday seems slightly surreal! And to be still putting on a festival that not only grows its audience with each passing programme, but upholds the joyous, progressive spirit of the quarter from which it takes its name, is a thrill and a privilege for us!

'I think we’ve delivered the goods once again with this programme which has some of my favourite musical heroes, including the mighty Kevin Rowland as well as Booker T Jones, Robert Cray, the Handsome Family, Divine Comedy and Cara Dillon. I invite people to check out the programme and I guarantee them that there’ll be plenty to whet their appetite!'

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival's full programme of events can be viewed at www.cqaf.com/2017, where tickets are also now on sale.