Banbridge Arts Festival Returns

There's much for art lovers to see and do outside of Belfast this month

This month, art lovers won’t have to stray too far from Belfast – where the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's is in full swing – for their cultural fix as the Banbridge Arts Festival returns with array of arts and cultural events worthy of any cosmopolitan hub.

Some choice events from this year’s nine-day programme include award-winning novelist Glenn Patterson reading alongside poet Kerry Hardie on October 27, a special John Hewitt Society event. More often spotted in the cultural dens around the Queen’s Quarter of Belfast, Patterson will be reading in the FE McWilliam Gallery.

The authors and audience will be situated in the midst of the gallery’s latest exhibition, entitled Barbara Freeman: On The Square. This installation of sculpture, drawings and sound was inspired by and created in response to the gallery. Composer Joel Cathcart created the bespoke sound installation that accompanies the exhibition.

Jill O’Neill will be bringing her unique ReFound pop-up shop concept outside of the capital city for the first time. The ReFound concept involves artists redesigning junk shop to create a one-off pieces of furniture. Pieces will be sold over four days from October 26 through a temporary shop space situated at 75 Newry Street, in the heart of the town.

O’Neill reveals that Refound’s participation in the Banbridge Art’s Festival is in fact all down to CultureNorthernIreland. ‘I did a talk at the CultureNorthernIreland conference on cultural entrepreneurship to get the word out there,' she says, 'and Banbridge District Council’s arts officer, Leah Duncan, was there and got in touch. Opening in Banbridge is very exciting. It’s our first time outside of Belfast and it’s great to get some local artists involved.’

Arts Officer, Leah Duncan sees the ReFound shop as a key aspect of the Banbridge Arts Festival’s aim to support practicing artists in the community. ‘We’ve been trying to work with ReFound to provide a local outlet for artists’ work.’

One local artist taking part in the fifth ReFound shop is Jane Allen, a textile artist whose work emphasises print and layered textures. Allen’s ReFound piece is a vintage chair reworked with printed and paint effects. Duncan is also excited about the recycling aspect to the ReFound philosophy, which Banbridge District Council is keen to support.

Rethinking waste in new and creative ways is further encouraged at the festival with a second-hand clothing ‘upcycling’ workshop with Tailor Maid seamstress Lucy Smyth. Members of the public are invited to bring their old clothes along where they will be transformed into costume pieces.

Other hands-on workshops such as a creative writing class with writer, Fiona Cassidy (aka Fionnuala McGoldrick) and a millinery craft session are designed to attract those who may consider themselves beginners as well as people already involved in arts or crafts within their communities.

There is a selection of events dedicated specifically to children and families to learn new skills and join in with craft making. Children’s film festival Cinemagic also returns to the town with film events for schools.

For the first time the Craft Fair will be held by the banks of the River Bann in the recently refurbished Solitude Park. Crafts showcased at the festival’s flagship event on October 29 will include jewellery, cards, textiles, prints and pottery.

The Banbridge Arts Festival also celebrates the best of what the wider district has on offer. Three new pieces of public art have been commissioned at Rathfriland, Corbet Lough and Finnis outside of Dromara.

And on the music front, Anthony Toner (pictured above) will be performing songs from his recent album release, A Light Below the Door, ahead of his appearance at the major Belfast Music Week gig, The Hoedown: Foy Vance and Friends.

The eclectic programme of events at the Banbridge Arts Festival reflects the Council’s aims to promote participation in the arts at any age and to as wide an audience as possible.

‘The arts festival is a great opportunity for people to try a wide range of activities,’ continues Duncan. ‘From the craft fair to music gigs, we’ve tried to encourage people to try a bit of everything’.

The Banbridge Arts Festival runs until October 29. Full programme details can be downloaded from the Banbridge District Council website.