Festival of Fools

Belfast is bursting at the seams with clowns, puppets and street comedians. You'd be a fool to miss it. Watch the NVTV video of the launch party

Festival of Fools Launch Party from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.

What goes ha ha bonk? A clown laughing their head off!

Coulrophobes beware. It's the 2010 Festival of Fools and as the colourful, perpetual motion festival gets into motion the city is flooded with street performers.

No one ever imagined the festival would last this long. When it was first mooted as an event the best case scenario was that it would conclude in 2008 with the Belfast City of Culture.

But the best laid plans of mice and men...

So the 2008 City of Culture went to Liverpool and the Festival of Fools kept on going. Now in its seventh year it is one of the fastest growing festivals of the Noughties and attracts tens of thousands of audience members a year.

From the opening show in the grounds of City Hall, featuring a Russian fairy tale brought to life with puppetry, music and theatre; through to the closing performance of a surreal colourful cabaret with the world’s largest inflatable backdrop, the Festival of Fools takes you into a wonderful world of bizarre comedy, belly laughs, magical moments and bewildering encounters.

Among the highlights is Mr Pejo’s Wandering Dolls, a leading Russian outdoor theatre company, who will be strolling over from St Petersburg just in time to present the opening show before going on to provide an enchanting night time procession through Cathedral Quarter in which the spectator becomes drawn into a mysterious world.

Rob Torres, International Man of Mirth, will be jetting in from the USA to tickle the collective tummy with the highest calibre silent comedy which has graced streets and theatres across Europe and America. Classical Indian magic and humour will be provided from Jardhu, who will be travelling from the other side of the world to entertain and bemuse audiences.

The European funny bone is well and truly tapped this year with Spain’s leading street clown, Leandre, performing a tribute to traditional circus clowns with Company Le Tal in Démodés; Swedish acrobats Mimbre will be bringing over their award winning show Until Now; French artists Kitschenette will be combining comedy with the culinary arts; two Belgian companies, who will be creating chaos with carpentry and saucepans; and this is before we even get to the Dutch performance featuring Fred the Amazing Stunt Pig.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Naomi Long, said 'Belfast City Council is delighted to support the Festival of Fools for another year. 'This is a wonderful event which continues to go from strength to strength. It's an absolute highlight of our cultural calendar, bringing pure joy and laughter to our streets - and providing local people and our ever growing numbers of visitors with world class entertainment, for free!'

'I am delighted that, once again, the Festival of Fools has put together more than 100 of the finest street theatre performances free of charge,' says Will Chamberlain, Artistic Director for the Festival of Fools. 'The Festival is now well established as a firm favourite with thousands of people and we think that this year’s lineup will give them plenty of chance for a chuckle. The support the Festival has received from the public and from sponsors has been a firm vote for optimism and a sure sign that the good times will roll once again this May Day Bank Holiday weekend.'

As part of a new partnership with Saint Anne’s Square, the Festival of Fools invites you to explore Belfast’s newest public space in the Cathedral Quarter, with the help of Apollo 11 astronauts (see what they did there?).

This magnificent piazza will play host to the finale of Mr Pejo’s Wandering Dolls nighttime processional performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; various shows and walkabout on the Sunday and Monday; as well as the large scale 6pm shows of Démodés and Dr Caligari’s Cabaret.

Peter Jennings, Saint Anne’s Square says, 'We are delighted to welcome the Festival of Fools as the first arts organisation to use the fabulous new European-style piazza at Saint Anne’s Square. From the outset our vision in developing this mixed use scheme included the creation of a public space which ticked all the boxes in terms of accessibility and flexibility for performance art. The spectacular and innovative acts scheduled to perform in Saint Anne’s Square during the festival will fully demonstrate what an exciting new venue this is both for the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast City.'

As well as magnificent street theatre, the Festival of Fools is also offering the public the chance to take advantage of some seriously good discount vouchers at some of Belfast’s top restaurants. Inside every brochure, you will find vouchers for the brand new ‘Festival of Foods’, entitling the user to wonderful deals at 9 leading eateries such as ‘10% off’ or ‘children eat free’ offers.

Christabel Williamson, Arts Council Development Officer for Community Arts, commented: 'The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to continue its support of the Festival of Fools through lottery project funding. The Festival of Fools creates a unique opportunity for people in Northern Ireland to see some of the best local and international street theatre performers free of charge in locations throughout Belfast.'

The Festival of Fools runs from the 29th April to the 3rd May. For more information about events check out Festival of Fools.