Belfast Festival Launches

Elvis Costello heads up this year's programme. Listen to festival veteran Terri Hooley in our podcast


From October 14 – 30, the 49th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will take place, with over 100 events in over 36 venues, galleries, spaces and places right across the city.

From landmark buildings such as the new Lyric and Ulster Hall to the slightly more sanctified delights of May Street and St Thomas’ Churches, the city gives itself over to Festival fever for 17 days and 17 nights.

It’s a festival of firsts and amid the impressive line-up, the names of musician Elvis Costello, classical singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, author and liberal activist Michael Moore, dance superstar Carlos Acosta and theatre director Oskaras Koršunovas are just a few that immediately impress.

In true mix-it-up festival style, these huge international draws share a billing with Musical Theatre for Youth’s West Side Story, birthday poetry readings for John Hewitt and the wit and wisdom of Terri Hooley.

The international flavour of the festival is given added piquancy with the inclusion of Grammy-winning Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares (much adored by the likes of Paul Simon and Kate Bush), the stunning Portuguese fado superstar Ana Moura (who recently supported the Rolling Stones on tour), and the incredible Big Band sound of Orchestra National de Jazz from Paris, all premiering on Northern Irish soil.

Introducing proceedings at the launch, Queen’s University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie said: 'As the Festival fast approaches its half-century, it’s particularly timely to reflect on its development since the heady days of the early 1960s.

'Queen’s and the festival have progressively grown together in the intervening years and are looking towards a bright future as we continue to bring the best of the world’s arts and culture to Northern Ireland, and provide an international platform for our best local arts practitioners.

Arts Minister Carál Ní Chuilín described Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s as 'a festival for all communities', and emphasised that cultural festivals of its kind should be free to operate without political interference.

'The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s operates at the very highest level and is a shining example of the vital role arts and culture plays in contributing to our social economy and tourism. I commend all involved for a festival that all communities can be justly proud of.'

With music, theatre, comedy, the spoken word, visual arts, film, dance and education all represented in the festival programme, there is surely something that will attract everyone's attention. Log on to the festival website for more information and to book tickets.