Belfast Festival at Queen's

The countdown to Ireland’s largest arts festival is officially under way

'People get a bit miserable in October,' admits Roisín McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, at the launch of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's. 'The festival is something that lifts our spirits as we face into a dark winter in Northern Ireland.'

This year the spirit-lifting festival programme includes multi-award-winning play Black Watch and Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art; talks by everyone from Michael Palin to Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murrary; music by composer of the famous score to Amelie, Yann Tiersen and a whole host of classical maestros; film screenings, visual art exhibitions and and much more besides. 

With events taking place at a record 36 venues across the city and organizers hoping to pull in 50,000 visitors from October 15-30, this year’s festival looks to be the liveliest and the most diverse in its 48-year history.

CultureNorthernIreland, as official online media partners for the second year running, will be bringing users exclusive preview interviews in the run up to the festival (watch out for features on Therapy? and Colin Bateman, to name but a few), competition tickets to the best shows, reviews, on-festival video diaries and more.

Festival Director Graeme Farrow confided at the launch of the festival - at Queen's Film Theatre on a rainy day in August - that this year’s line-up would secure Belfast's place as a world-class destination for arts entertainment, and encouraged festival goers to book tickets fast so as to avoid disappointment. 'Whatever you are in to, this year’s festival has it all. Early booking is not just preferable, it is essential!'

One highlight of the festival is sure to the world premiere of Colin Bateman's play, National Anthem. Produced by Ransom Theatre Company, it's the acomedy crime novelist's first stage play.

'It is about the first national anthem being written for Northern Ireland, and a poet and a musician getting together to compose it. I'm looking forward to it,' Bateman said cheerfully at the launch. 'This is the first time I've had something on at the Belfast Festival at Queens so it's a whole new world for me.'

If none of the above appeals - and why would it not? - there's always the ancient art of foot washing in performer Adrian Howell's Foot Washing for the Sole, 'an intensely personal and moving interaction' involving frankincense oil, a dry cloth and whole lot of love. Nice.

Listen to Roisín McDonough's views on the 2010 festival programme in the slideshow below.


For more information on the festival programme or to book tickets, log on to or contact the festival box office Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm and Sat 10am-2pm on 028 9097 1197.