This year's EastSide Arts Festival invites you to 'be part of something very special'

The 11-day programme is packed with events throughout east Belfast for families and fans of live music, literature, laughs and more

(L-R) Eastside Arts Festival performers, Clarke Wilson from Celtic Soul, Henrik Gard and Ali Stranger from Tumble Circus

EastSide Arts Festival is an annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate part of Belfast that's alive with creative energy and this year organisers have reflected that energy in a huge programme of events.

Taking place in various locations across east Belfast from August 2 - 12, residents of the area and visitors alike are welcomed to 'be part of something very special' with a diverse offering of performances, film, exhibitions, free activities for families to enjoy and many means of experiencing the city's unique culture and heritage.

Scroll below to browse the full programme, highlights of which include:

Parkfest – Two days (August 4-5), two parks and lots of free fun for families to enjoy. Take part in the first ever Parkfest at C.S. Lewis Square and Orangefield Park, featuring arts, crafts, performances, tandem bikes plus lots more.

Music and Words – Across the festival enjoy a wide range of live music, storytelling, poetry and literature from well-known Northern Ireland artists and east Belfast residents such as Anthony Toner, Jan Carson, Ken Haddock, Stuart Bailie, and Andrea Montgomery.

Theatre – Lots of exciting and interesting performances are on offer including a special rehearsed reading of Jimmy Ellis: Home Again, an autobiography by the late east Belfast actor James Ellis, of his childhood years spent in Park Avenue (August 2 and 4). Look out for other gems including Jade City (August 3-5) and East Belfast Boy (August 7-8).

Comedy – Budding Jessica Fletchers are required for Murder She Got Wrote Off, back by popular demand on August 10. Plus check out Ruairi Woods live at Strand Arts Centre (August 10) and Those Who Can’t comedy trio (August 3).

Events at the Big Top – A big hit last year and back for five days this year is the Big Top at C.S. Lewis Square. Lots of great family fun events include circus workshops, performances (August 8-9 and 11-12) and the Big Fish Little Fish family rave (August 11). Featured music includes Celtic Soul, the definitive Van Morrison tribute, playing the iconic album Astral Weeks (August 8), Hothouse Flowers (August 9) and Camille O’Sullivan (August 11). Also look out for a special screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (August 12) and a late-night Circus Cabaret celebrating 250 years of circus (August 10).

Visual Art – Visit a wide range of venues including Framewerk, EastSide Gallery and Old Belfast Met Tower Street where you will be treated to some extraordinary visual art experiences from a range of local artists. A key highlight is a sleepover at St Martin’s Church, Ballymacarrett, hosted by Framewerk (August 11).

Film – As well as hosting theatre and music events the iconic Strand Arts Centre will show a range of film screenings such as G.I. Blues featuring Elvis Presley (August 2) and The Court Jester featuring Angela Lansbury (August 9).

Workshop & Classes – If you’ve been itching try something creative, here’s your chance! Come to one of the art-themed workshops with Maitri Studio (August 2-12) or join east Belfast-based writer Jan Carson and write your own piece of magical realism fiction (August 6).

Tours & Talks – Whether it’s by bus, foot or bike there is a tour to suit all interests. From photos of days gone by to musical and literary icons to walks in glens or greenways, or a visit to well known places, you will be surprised by what you see and hear. Back by popular demand is the Translink East West Bus Trip with Stephen Beggs and Paddy McDonnell (August 5 and 12). New for this year is a unique and entertaining trip on the new Glider (August 6-7 and 9), a partnership with Cultúrlann and Feile 30, which offers you the chance to be entertained by artists and storytellers and nourished by delicious food from across the city, all from the comfort of your Glider seat.

EastSide Emerging –  As part of EastSide Arts commitment to new and upcoming talent we invite you to come along and support our young musicians and producers (3 & 9 August).

Special events –  From a special film screening of Cocoon at Knockanagoney Community Centre (August 8) to Artful Ageing Exhibition (2-12 August) featuring creations from older east Belfast residents, to performances from artists involved in the Home Project 2018 (August 8), you are guaranteed to uncover something new about the eastside.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: 'Once again the team at EastSide Arts Festival has delivered an excellent programme of arts activities, bringing the arts direct to the communities of east Belfast and encouraging local artists, writers, musicians and performers to develop and promote their talent. The eclectic range of arts events this year – from story-telling to drama to dance, from song to parks to pastries – reflects a new confidence in the city’s east.

'As principal funder, through our Exchequer and National Lottery funds, the Arts Council is proud to be associated with a programme which so successfully provides opportunities for people to participate in high-quality arts, in what is a key element now in the creative, cultural and economic life of the city as a whole.'

EastSide Arts Festival Director, Rachel Kennedy added: 'We are delighted to be back with yet another fantastic programme for the EastSide Arts Festival 2018. This really is an exciting time for east Belfast. We invite everyone from across east Belfast and beyond to join us to celebrate and enjoy the creative energy flowing from this part of the city. The programme offers excitement, entertainment as well as a few little surprises along the way.

'We would like to thank our principal funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and funders Belfast City Council and Arts & Business Northern Ireland for their vital continuing support. Sincere thanks also to our key sponsors, Translink, Hewitt & Gilpin, The British Council, Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park, Forestside Shopping Centre and Ulster Bank for their invaluable contribution to the festival and ongoing commitment to the creative regeneration of east Belfast.'

For more information and ticket booking visit http://www.eastsidearts.net.