Test Drive the Arts NI

Never been to the opera or theatre before? Now's your chance to take the plunge

CultureNorthernIreland is delighted to be a partner in a new online initiative which will allow thousands of people to ‘test drive’ the best of Northern Ireland’s theatre and performing arts.

The new website www.testdrivetheartsni.org will enable anyone in Northern Ireland who has never been to live theatre or performing arts events to get guest tickets to some of Belfast's hottest shows, including the Lyric’s The Absence of Women and the Ulster Orchestra’s upcoming James Bond music night at the Waterfront Hall.

Prospective audience members can log on to the website to gain access to a range of performances including music, opera, theatre, comedy and dance. Over twenty Belfast arts organisations are taking part, including venues like An Culturlann, Belfast Waterfront, Grand Opera House, Lyric Theatre, Spectrum Centre, Queen’s Film Theatre and the Ulster Hall.

Local theatre companies such as Bruiser, Kabosh and Tinderbox are also on board, while the Belfast Film Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Belfast Children’s Festival are just some of the festivals represented.

The initiative is managed by Audiences NI and funded by Belfast City Council with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Steven Hadley, Audiences NI chief executive, said: 'There are few places in the world that offer the diversity and quality of performances that are readily available right here in Belfast and we hope that after experiencing a live performance you will want to come back time and time again.

'The new website lists a wide range of shows available. Simply select the performance you are interested in attending and complete the registration form online to request tickets. Tickets will be regularly available on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you go online the better the chance you have of securing the tickets you want.

The initiative will be rolled out across Northern Ireland from April with venues such as the Alley Theatre in Strabane, Burnavon in Cookstown, Millennium Forum in Derry, Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, and many more coming on board.

Roisín McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, said: 'Building audiences for the arts is a priority for the Arts Council, and Test Drive the Arts NI is the perfect incentive for tentative newcomers. There’s an amazing choice of arts activities on offer out there for all ages and interests and, if they just give it a try, we know people won’t look back.'

Visit www.testdrivetheartsni.org to get involved.