10th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

The arts festival with the X factor returns. Click Play Audio for a podcast with festival director Sean Kelly

Do you remember the first time? Is it really ten years since the first Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival was brought kicking and screaming into to the world, all wide-eyed and wet behind the ears?

CQAF has come a very long way since those heady uncertain days. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that in the intervening decade it’s become the most dynamic and hotly-anticipated arts festival on these Islands. And this year CultureNorthernIreland will be working in partnership with the festival to do what it does best - provide world class previews and reviews of all the best events.

Ross Noble It all happens from April 30 to May 10, when once again an eclectic collective of local, national and international artists will descend upon the Cathedral Quarter offering up an embarrassment of cultural riches including music, comedy, theatre, literature, visual arts and film.

Although CQAF X comes at a seemingly challenging time for public and private funding for the arts, festival director Sean Kelly believes that there is still a huge appetite for events which are unique and innovative

'In the current financial climate, people are understandably more careful about where they’re spending their money. The arts sector really needs to raise its game and give audiences experiences that are exciting, uplifting and probably most importantly, affordable.

'I’m really delighted to say that the tenth Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival has stepped up to the mark to deliver all of this with a genuinely great and accessible line-up. Judging by the buzz generated around our tenth anniversary, I think that it’s fair to say that we’ve proved that the hunger for top quality arts in Belfast remains undiminished. And we’re very happy to be of service.'

Imelda May Supporting the festival, Roisín McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:

'As a cornerstone in the arts-driven regeneration in this part of Belfast, CQAF makes a vital contribution to economic and creative growth, putting art at the heart during festival time. I encourage local people and visitors alike to get involved in the great opportunities available and enjoy the huge diversity of arts activity on offer, on this its tenth anniversary.'

Among the artists headlining this year will be award-winning journalist, filmmaker and secular prophet John Pilger and the celebrated cerebral actor and playwright Steven Berkoff, who brings Shakespeare’s Villains to idiosyncratic life in his mesmerising one-man show.

For your comedic delight there will be stand-up from the likes of Mark Thomas, Lucy Porter, David O’Doherty, Ross Noble and Jason Byrne as well as comedy readings with Arthur Smith, Dave Gorman and that man Mark Thomas again - all reading from their latest books.

Letters of a darker bent are discussed at the Crime Fiction Special by Northern Ireland's own Colin Bateman and Dublin crime author Gene Kerrigan. One of the famed Liverpool Poets, Brian Patten will also take audiences on a darkly humorous journey from his first childhood to his second and back again in Growing up Before Your Very Eyes.

4 Quartets CQAF’s global jukebox is as well stocked as ever: African superstar Oumou Sangare performs the opening night at the festival marquee; Lloyd Cole is supported by reformed local legends St Vitus Dance and the excellent Teenage Fanclub make a long overdue return to Belfast.

The festival iwill also welcome the shimmying, glimmering music of Imelda May and soul diva Candi Staton; DJs Calvin Harris and Gilles Peterson; a night of new music curated by Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and, in one of the Festival’s biggest coups, the first Belfast concert in 20 years by Irish traditional supergroup Moving Hearts.

The Festival also celebrates the work and genius of Tom Waits with a talk by author Barney Hoskyns on his new biography of the iconic artist and Martin Scorcese’s legendary concert film The Last Waltz is recreated by the cream of local talent in a very special concert in the Black Box.

A packed theatre programme sees the return of Martin Lynch’s sell-out production of The Chronicles of Long Kesh, the Dublin Festival hit Waiting for Ikea and perhaps most intriguingly of all, the BBC’s Joe Lindsay in the cult stage-play (and motion picture) Talk Radio.

Speaking at the launch of the festival in Black Box Café, Lord Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley paid tribute to the enduring success of CQAF.

'In the past decade, the city of Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival have grown up together. A lot has changed in Belfast’s social and political landscape since the first festival back in 1999. Our horizons have been broadened and an enduring peace has allowed us as a city to grow together.

'The same is true of this remarkable festival. Just having a quick scan of this year’s programme will tell you that the cultural diversity and sheer breadth of ambition is truly impressive.'

The Tenth Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival runs from April 30 to May 10. The full programme is available at www.cqaf.com.