Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

One of Northern Ireland's best-loved and most dynamic festivals returns to enliven Belfast for a 17th year with over 150 events

Festival Details


Thursday, 28 April 2016 to Sunday, 08 May 2016

The 17th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival programme has launched with over 150 events taking place through Belfast's historic Cathedral Quarter and beyond.

The dizzyingly eclectic music line-up this year brings a series of luminaries and legends to Belfast. The festival welcomes the almighty Lee “Scratch” Perry to the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival to help celebrate the great man’s 80th birthday. Guy Garvey won’t be giving Belfast audiences the Elbow when he hits the Festival Marquee off the back of his acclaimed-to-high-heaven solo debut Courting the Squall. Marc Almond follows the Velvet Trail to Belfast, with 35 million record sales and umpteen stone cold classics tucked under his glittery sash.

Original innovator Grandmaster Flash will be beating a path to CQAF, to deliver his message of hip-hop genius. We've got (deep breath) BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning husband-and-wife duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman in town, as we do the extended family wondrousness of The Unthanks.

Old 'super lungs' himself, the man with that voice, Terry Reid, is making an extremely rare visit to these parts for an unmissable show in the Black Box. What’s that? Where’s the funk you say? Give us a moment – we haven’t finished! None other than Craig Charles will be inviting you to his Funk and Soul Club, ably supported by the Haggis Horns, on a magical Friday in May.

The multi-legged groove machine that is the Afro-Celt Sound System also make their CQAF debut. Beta Band founder and all round electronic folk pop visionary Steve Mason hits town with possibly his most perfect album yet. The home-grown genius that is David Holmes invites you to God’s Waiting Room. The timeless brilliance of The Zombies will transform the Custom House Square Marquee (and don’t be surprised to hear more than a few tracks from the seminal Odessey and Oracle album).

Cult pop polymath and former Arab Strapper Aidan Moffat performs live after an exclusive screening of his film Where You’re Meant to Be. Master jazz pioneer Courtney Pine is joined by pianist Zoe Rahman, as they perform beautiful interpretations of timeless ballads. 'Chip off the old block' (copyright Richard Thompson) Teddy Thompson performs with astounding American singer Kelly Jones.

The Birds of Chicago take glorious flight in Belfast once again, this time in the beguiling surrounds of the First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street. Blues, bebop, rockabilly - but mainly badass - Hispanic punk-folk-voodoo tinged troubadours Guadalupe Plata will play, naturally enough, in Voodoo.

The festival is also to announce that its artist in residence this year is the singularly talented Jealous of the Birds aka Naomi Hamilton whose debut album Parma Violets is simply astonishing. Last year’s artist in residence Ciaran Lavery has come a long way since those heady days of May 2015. He returns to the fold to launch his rather astounding new album Let Bad In – and it’s great to have him back for what has to be one of the most hotly anticipated shows from a local artist this year.

Rising Dublin star Gavin James makes a welcome festival debut as do sonic reprobates Hillbilly Moon Explosion. Northern Lights featuring Ben Glover, Malojian and Matt McGinn finds three of the north’s finest singer-songwriters taking to the stage to bewitch and beguile in a CQAF style. Spooky, timeless and irresistible – the music of Malcolm Holcolmbe is matched only by his stunning live performances channelling Leadbelly and poetic existential angst in equal measure.

Performance artist, video artist and very funny man Kim Noble invites you to draw in a little closer and reassure you that You’re Not Alone – his blackly comic masterpiece. In the CQAF comedy line-up we’re thrilled, tickled and beside ourselves to be able to present Rob Delaney, star of Channel 4’s Catastrophe and all round funny American. Long-time friend of the festival and local comedy god Roy Walker makes a nostalgic return to the Dockers Club – the scene of so many former glories. 

Country music legend (and political person’s Barry Humphries) Tina C makes a long overdue return to CQAF, hot on the heels of the long awaited release of her second volume of biography, Complete & Utter Country. Sheffield’s finest John Shuttleworth is back in the Black Box as is Richard Herring with his new show Happy Now? And old festival favourite, and thinking person’s stand-up Robert Newman returns with The Brain Show, in which he takes a sceptical approach to some grand claims made by neuroscience.

The 'Salford Bard' John Cooper Clarke also makes a very welcome return to headline the festival marquee and perhaps most famous of the many Fall refugees, Brix Smith Start, will be in town to read from her new book The Fall, The Rise, The Fall. Michael Bradley tells the story of his Life as an Teenage Undertone, recalling those white hot days of the punk revolution as seen from the front lines. 

There’s also a glorious abundance of visual art, film, literature, spoken word and theatre, such as the hugely acclaimed Gare St Lazare Players presenting First Love by Samuel Beckett, and a number of theatrical readings and performances in Belfast’s spankingest new venue, The Barracks.

Blackstaff Press launch New Poets of Ireland and screenings of the utterly indispensable Tom Waits Big Time and to mark the 40th anniversary of The Clash forming, there will be a screening of Rude Boy as well as Stuart Baillie interviewing its star Ray Gange about his involvement with the band. Oh, have we mentioned Vegstock? We’re having a Vegstock.

All in, there’s 11 days of music, comedy, spoken word, literature, film, theatre, visual art and more at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. For the full programme, go to