Belfast's Out to Lunch festival promises 'life-affirming sustenance for troubled times'

With Brexit looming and ongoing discord around the Cathedral Quarter's future, this year's events are aimed more than ever to brighten up dark days

For the past 13 years Belfast's culturally curious have looked to Out to Lunch for the cure to their winter woes, but this January's 14th edition comes with more significance than just the seasonal change.

As organisers note, ahead of what might be the last festival before Northern Ireland leaves the EU with the rest of the UK, an 'extra special programme of life-affirming sustenance for troubled times' is in store.

From January 4 - 27 the newly unveiled programme promises a heady menu of live music, comedy, theatre, literature, film, spoken word and hot food to nourish the soul and the belly during the longest, darkest month of the year.

Music highlights include folk superstar and all-round living legend Andy Irvine, the insanely talented Teddy Thompson, Donegal’s finest harmonising trio The Henry Girls and a rare Belfast show by Mull Historical Society featuring Suede's Bernard Butler, who produced the new album Wakelines.

Then there’s a reimagining of Pixies' classic Doolittle on its 30th anniversary with Arborist, Hand Models and Sister Ghost, master of the Lap Steel guitar Martin Harley, the launch of Grainne Holland’s new album Corcra with Brian Finnegan, Séan Óg Graham and Liam Bradley, Niamh McGlinchey lighting up the Black Box, Linley Hamilton and Kyron Burke’s wondrous new jazz project The Sazeracs and an unmissable celebration of Barbra Streisand featuring Lady Portia Di’Monte and Marion Jordan in Babs’ Broadway Lunch.


Lovers of Joyce’s short story 'The Dead' can watch John Huston’s classic film and enjoy a sumptuous Joycean Christmas meal, while two of Belfast’s finest prose writers today Wendy Erskine and Rosemary Jenkinson, are showcased in the programme's Words and Ideas strand.

Film lovers will be treated to the Buster Keaton classic The General performed with a live musical score by Haiku Salut, a folk/electronic trio from Derbyshire. There is the Irish premiere of a new documentary on Chris Sievey, aka Frank Sidebottom, called Being Frank, three short Irish poetry films raided from the archives about or featuring Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh and Damian Gorman. Out to Lunch dons its spandex and air guitar for a 35th anniversary screening of the definitive mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, followed by some rocktastic Spinal Tap karaoke.

Other highlights include Opera for Lunch with NI Opera Studio’s show If You Can Find Me featuring the songs of Stephen Sondheim and a Seedhead Lecture entitled 'Belfast’s Wild Larder' with Clare McQuillan and a special launch of artist Raymond Watson’s sound art piece 'Unlocking'.

These shows complement those already announced including Marian Keyes and Roisin Ingle (sold out) Nish Kumar (sold out), Steeleye Span (sold out), Bronagh Gallagher (evening show sold out), Lucy Porter, Don Letts, London Astrobeat Orchestra performs Talking Heads, The Dodge Brothers, King Kong Company, The Delines, Scott Matthews and Lost Voice Guy.

Out to Lunch Director Sean Kelly said: 'These are uncertain times in so many ways, but Out to Lunch aims to light up January and with a world class menu of music, comedy, art and film. Over the past 14 years, our ‘show and lunch’ idea has really captured people’s imagination. Come January 2019, we’ll be on hand to lift spirits and hearts with a month of great food and world class entertainment!'

For full details of the festival and ticket booking go to