Belfast International Arts Festival is delighted to announce that the provisional dates for Festival are Tuesday 11 October to Saturday 30 October inclusive.

Today, the Festival announces two separate and major commissions for new creative works from internationally acclaimed artists, Taylor Mac (USA) and Amanda Coogan (Ireland) that will feature as signature events in the 2016 edition.

In his first Northern Ireland appearance, the Obie Award-winning New York performer Taylor Mac will present The WW1 Years and More, a series of special, participative concerts, as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary. In two concerts, his astute take on music and culture spans the years before, during and after the First World War from 1896 through to 1926. His third concert will be a ten-decade spectacular from 1916, the year of the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising, through to 2016. Accompanied by a live band and dressed in a dazzling array of costume creations, Mac will reflect on notions of authority, class, empire, gender, patriotism and war, and differing perceptions and attitudes to how history is made and viewed.  This event has been Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions.

Run to the Rock is a new, multi-faceted Live Art work directed and designed by critically acclaimed live art practitioner, Amanda Coogan and involving Deaf performers from Northern Ireland and South Africa.  The production is a meditation on Shakespeare’s text inspired by Sonny Venkatrathnam’s Robben Island Bible and the choreographic potential of sign language, which is at the core of the creative process. Using sections of Shakespeare’s texts as marked out in the Robben Island Bible Run to the Rock weaves a narrative of struggle for recognition, power balance and instability that springs from Shakespeare’s continuing political relevance. The production will be cross-disciplinary, using live multi-media messaging, projected images, sound and choreographed movements that spring from translations of Shakespeare’s texts into sign language. This work has been generously informed by collaborators Educape and Jazz Hands, based in South Africa, and commissioned by the British Council’s Shakespeare Reworked programme, a funding opportunity for UK-based artists and companies to develop innovative projects which respond to, reinterpret or are inspired by the works of Shakespeare in a global context. Shakespeare Reworked is part of Shakespeare Lives, a major global programme of international events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

Dates and venues for both these sets of events will be announced in April 2016.

Run to The RockMaking the announcement, Festival Director Richard Wakely said;
“The Belfast International Arts Festival is a place for artists and audiences to come together and to explore and exchange ideas through creative practice. A chameleon of words, music, and socio-political invectives, Taylor Mac has created a hugely entertaining cabaret for Belfast audiences called The WW1 Years and More which will no doubt challenge and engage by turn. Arising from her tenure as 2015 Festival Artist in Residence, Amanda Coogan, Ireland’s leading live art practitioner, has created a compelling new inter-disciplinary work created with Deaf performers that is inspired by Shakespeare to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the death of the world’s best know dramatist. Taylor Mac and Amanda Coogan are leading artists of our time whose new works for the Belfast International Arts Festival illuminate important issues in our world and inspire us to consider how we might best respond accordingly.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,
“The importance to Belfast of an international arts festival cannot be underestimated. As the Festival’s current, core funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland recognises the enormous contribution that arts and culture make to our city in return for a relatively small amount of public investment and we wish the Festival team many successes with this year’s programme”

Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said, “We are delighted that Belfast International Arts Festival has announced the first acts for their 2016 festival. It is great to see international artists coming to the city as well as new work being created especially for our local audiences. Festivals make a vital contribution to the city and we are sure that this year’s festival will build on last year’s success.”

Jenny Waldman, Director, 14-18 NOW said, “One hundred years ago this year, the First World War was entering its darkest days. As the conflict entered its third year it must have felt as though the war would last forever, a sensation heightened by the intense brutality of the Battle of the Somme. It is important to remember the momentous impact of the First World War in Northern Ireland as well as mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.”

Neil Webb, Director of British Council Theatre and Dance, said, “We had an outstanding calibre of artists from the UK take part in the research and development phase for Shakespeare Reworked, and I am delighted that Amanda Coogan’s Run To The Rock project has been selected to be developed into a full-scale production. The artistic collaboration in this project between Deaf performers from Northern Ireland and South Africa demonstrates how Shakespeare continues to live in all people and all nations. I very much look forward to seeing how Amanda’s project continues to grow, as she has placed Shakespeare at the heart of a project that makes Live Art more accessible to Deaf audiences and explores the creative potential of sign language.”

Chief Executive of Tourism NI John McGrillen said, “The Belfast International Arts Festival makes a significant contribution to tourism in the low season months and presents a great opportunity for visitors to stay longer and contribute more to our economy. I commend the dedication and hard work of Richard and his team for the creation and delivery of a high quality event.”

The full Festival Programme is due to be revealed later in the year and booking will be available for some events from April 2016.

For all the latest information and to sign up for Festival News, visit www.belfastinternationalartsfestival.com, follow on facebook and twitter @BelfastFestival  for all the latest news.