On behalf of all at the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival we would like to thank each and every one of you for attending this year’s Festival. Over 100 events across 19 Days, it was one of the biggest, most ambitious, and best we’ve ever put on and absolutely none of that would have been possible without the great people of Belfast and beyond coming along and enjoying it.
To make the 2017 Festival even better it would mean a lot to us if you were able to complete our official audience survey.
The survey should take between 10-15 minutes to complete.
We realise your time is valuable, and to thank you for participating, we’re offering you the chance to win overnight accommodation in the Europa Hotel, complete with full Irish breakfast and afternoon tea in a free prize draw.
Belfast International Arts Festival continually strives to bring you the very best in culture. Your insights are invaluable to us – and we want to hear from you. Please click on the link below to take part in the survey.
See you next year,
The Festival Team.
TO FILL OUT THE AUDIENCE SURVEY CLICK HERE
The Fever – Roger Casement in the Dark Places: Wednesday 19 October | Grand Opera House
Having grown up not far from Casement Park and heard some of his story, I was delighted to get tickets to review this event in the Grand Opera House. The evening was to prove enlightening and entertaining and combined a mix of music and spoken word that really captured what Roger Casement stood for. One section had a speech that was written by George Bernard Shaw for Casement to recite at his trial in the hope of him avoiding the noose. The fact it had only been performed once before made me realise how much of Casement’s story has been airbrushed over time. So how did a homosexual, protestant, Knight of the British Empire come to have a stadium named after him in West Belfast?
Roger Casement was born in Dublin in 1864 to an Anglo Irish family. His father had served in the British Army and his mothers’ family was from Dublin. At the age of nine he came to live on the North Coast of Antrim after his mothers’ death and stayed with relatives after his fathers’ death when he was only thirteen. Moving to England at sixteen, Casement joined a shipping company and eventually found himself working in the Congo. The evening focused on the work he undertook there and how it changed his outlook. Here he met Joseph Conrad, who would go on to write the novel “Heart of Darkness” of his experiences in the Congo. Both arrived believing that Britain, and the Empire, was civilising the area and improving it. Both left knowing the full truth and witnessed the level of destruction first hand. Casement was given a role with the British Consul and asked to report back on the “issues” in the Congo. As this area was mainly owned by the King of Belgium his report on the “enslavement, mutilation and torture of natives on the rubber plantations” was well received and he was knighted for his work on highlighting the systematic rape and torture. One of the pieces focused on how he wished the crimes committed had been for gold as he would have avoided it. Everywhere he looked was rubber, car tires, bikes, pencils. It tortured him to think of the human cost every time he saw this.
He then ventured to Peru to report on the rubber plantations there. Again the same systematic pillaging was witnessed but as this was by mainly a British Company the report was not as well received. Throughout the evening Crash Ensemble provided music and in one piece images of conflict and war mixed with images of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Malcolm X flashed on the screen while haunting classical music was played. The comparison was clear, through every turbulent era people stood up to defy what was wrong. Roger Casement belonged in this company, where was our next Roger Casement?
A local actress (Kerri Quinn) performed a powerful poem/rap piece that pulled no punches and pointed fingers at those on all sides who could do more but don’t. George Bernard Shaw’s defence that was never used was delivered eloquently and with great reverence. His plea was not that he be found not guilty but to admit to all the things he had done. He had not committed treason as he considered himself an Irishman fighting against injustice and wanted to be compared to the British soldiers that had been driven into the sea at Gallipoli. During other pieces we were left to reflect how Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and even Martin Luther King were saw as law breakers and terrorists when they stood up against the “man”.
The final two spoken pieces were delivered by Olwen Fouere. With her shock of white hair and commanding presence on stage she delivered a piece first on the horrors that Casement witnessed in his life that began with a haunting incantation of all the tyre manufacturers. Goodyear, Dunlop, Firestone, Pirelli. This was repeated over and over. The second piece highlighted the mining of tantalum today and where the mineral got it’s name (from the legend of Tantalus). A gram of this material sells for $450 while a miner gets $5 a day for working 12 hours. To the list of Goodyear, Dunlop, Firestone, Pirelli was added Apple, Samsung, HTC, Sony , Blackberry chanted over and over again as it is used in the production of smartphones and tablets. And where is this metal mined… the Congo!
An all round excellent and informative evening that was well delivered and also well received. I would recommend this to anyone and hopefully somewhere out there the next Roger Casement is willing to step forward.
Aidan O’Reilly, Ulster Bank Arts Ambassador
Photo taken by Redcap Productions
Justin Kauflin: Tuesday 25 October 2016 | Black Box
I won’t try to claim that I know a lot about jazz, or even be an avid follower in music in general. What I can say, however, is that Justin Kauflin’s performance, as part of the Justin Kauflin Trio, moved me and managed to make, even my musically challenged soul, jump with every beat.
Kauflin’s bio is an impressive one. He began music at the age of four, performed in concert by the age of six and was performing jazz at a professional level by fifteen. What makes these feats even more remarkable is that Kauflin had been faced with exudative retinopathy throughout, resulting in total vision loss at the age of 11.
However, this is not what defines Justin Kauflin. That is instead his sheer love of music, which radiates clearly in every composition played and every stroke of his ivory keys. What is also worth noting is that Kauflin has both been befriended and endorsed by some of the biggest names in jazz. Despite these social circles and high praise, he still manages to maintain an air of humility throughout, evident even in his performance that night.
One of the standout pieces of the night was the song ‘For Clark’. This is a piece dedicated to one of these famous acquaintances, more specifically the late Clark Kelly, a musician known for his prowess on a trumpet. The emotion in Kauflin’s stance was raw and it was clear that he meant every note.
As stated, last night’s performance moved me. I attended the Black Box with no real knowledge as to what I was going to be privy too and, if I am honest, no real expectations. What I left with however, was a new founded appreciation of jazz, the skill of composition and a blatant amount of respect and admiration for all that Kafulin has achieved. In all, this newly converted fan will be following this artist’s work closely, and all that jazz.
Siobhan McKenna, Ulster Bank Arts Ambassador
Photo taken by Redcap Productions
The Suppliant Women: Friday 21 October 2016 | Grand Opera House
‘The Suppliant Women’ may have been written 2,500 years ago, but for all its political power and current resonance, it could have been penned this very day.
The Suppliant Women’ is a play written by the Greek playwright Aeschylus and features 50 daughters of Danaus, fleeing their home and the men they do not wish to marry.
What I watched in the Grand Opera House, however, was a modern and powerful adaptation by David Greg, a playwright well known for both his written and producing talents.
The play, as mentioned, focuses on a group of women, desperately seeking asylum from their ‘would-be’ oppressors. They arrive on the shores of Argos and immediately seek refuge in a temple, calling to Zeus for protection and assistance, lest they be tossed aside by those from whom they seek asylum.
In a bold choice of casting, influenced by the methods of Ancient Greek theatre, the chorus, bar one, consists of volunteers from our local community. Now this is undoubtedly a risk, however Ramin Gray’s direction along with the impressive talents of these amateurs ensured a successful outcome.
The play is vibrant and intense, and the energy and plight of these women is well represented by boththe ritual cries and choreographed dances by Sasha Milavic Davies and the foreign sounds and emphatic notes of John Browne’s musical compositions.
The chorus was well led by its ‘Chorus Leader’ Gemma May and, despite the clear focus on the female plight, both Oscar Batterham as The King and Omar Ebrahim as Danaos offered a resounding and sympathetic male perspective.
As stated, this play may have been written over two millennia ago, but the central themes of migrants,the plight of refugees, feminism, arranged marriage and violence against women resonate just as strongly today.
The Suppliant Women’ is a true celebration of community, theatre and the power of the written word. It is effortlessly political and manages to make even the most unwilling of viewer look within to their own personal morals. In all, ‘The Suppliant Women’ is a play that will stay with you, long after you have left the theatre.
Siobhan McKenna, Ulster Bank Arts Ambassador
The Dog Days Are Over: Friday 14 October 2016 | The MAC
The performance took place in the ‘Downstairs’ theatre in the MAC and when the audience arrived the dancers were already on stage waiting for us, warming up and stretching, similar to what you would do before a workout. I wondered was this part of the performance as they were watching us filtering into our seats. As the last person sat down, the eight dancers walked forward and each of them put on their socks and trainers. With the house lights still up, the dancers slowly built up to their ultimate movement; the jump.
For 70 minutes we watched the dancers’ hop, leap and bounce through a most exhausting routine of which required the utmost endurance and concentration from those performing…and from those in the audience. Through a mixture of wonderfully styled geometric patterns, we saw how punishing this was on our dancers, some visibly pained with the extent of the routine. At times it seemed so invasive watching these performers put their bodies through this but as the show continued I was willing them on hoping that each of them make it through to the end.
The festival director, Richard Wakely, led a Q&A session with choreographer, Jans Martens at the end of the performance which allowed the audience to understand the mind-set behind Jans’ creation. He explained he was trying to show the fine line between art and entertainment with a comparison to reality television or those in the gladiator arenas where we didn’t want to watch this painful process but championed the subjects by the end. He explained that the routine took only 4 weeks to put together and due to the arduous nature of the piece, they rotated dancers when they took it on the road so to rest those not in use.
This wouldn’t be something I would normally go to as I prefer live theatre to have a more blatant story but I was totally mesmerised by what I witnessed that I felt privileged to be part of something so different. It truly represented everything the Festival is about and really opened my eyes to venturing into more diverse theatre performances.
Sherene Masterson, Ulster Bank Arts Ambassador
Photo © Alwin Poiana