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Festival News

The 61st edition of Belfast International Arts Festival has officially launched with a special performance by the captivating Cara Dillon, who joined audiences in Belfast on Tuesday for the reveal of the festival’s spectacular autumn programme.

This year’s festival returns from 12th October – 5th November with a bumper 26-day extravaganza of talks, readings, exhibitions and performance from home and abroad.

Festival Chief Executive and Artistic Director Richard Wakely says: “Belfast International Arts Festival has always been fertile ground to platform and showcase the very best artistic talent from home and abroad – and this year’s festival continues that tradition, offering an autumn programme that is truly international.”

This October, Belfast International Arts Festival will open simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic as its collaboration with Cahoots NI on the company’s latest stage show, The Vanishing Elephant, opens at the New Victory Theatre on Broadway in New York.

Back home in Belfast, Gary Mitchell’s new play, Burnt Out (11th October – 4th November), which is set to be staged at The Lyric, will officially open the festival to local audiences.

Richard continues: “This simultaneous opening embodies so much of what we strive for as a festival. It champions new work by our rich artistic community and it amplifies homegrown voices, bringing local talent to the international stage.

“We’re very proud of this year’s programme, which brings together today’s leading artists, writers, thinkers and cultural observers to offer something for all audiences, from the array of authors represented in the talks and ideas strand to the genre-hopping gig line-up, theatrical delights featuring the bravest and brightest writers and performers, free events as part of our commitment to nurture the arts at the heart of local communities, and so much more.”

Earlier in the summer, the festival announced a number of this year’s signature events, including a triple bill at the Grand Opera House which will play host to An Evening with The Belfast Ensemble and Marc Almond (17th October), a special two-part event that sees the ensemble joined by Canadian soprano Rebecca Caine in the first half to perform music from the award-winning Abomination: A DUP Opera, and international pop icon Marc Almond in the second as he performs the multi-award-winning song cycle, Ten Plagues.

Much-loved folk artist Cara Dillon (18th October) will take to the same stage to perform songs from her new album Coming Home, accompanied by original music written by Sam Lakeman, and FIQ! by Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger (20th–21st October) bring an otherworldly collection of acrobatic feats, figures, music, sketches and choreography exploding in a colourful visual world created by Hassan Hajjaj.

Theatrical highlights include the return of the formidable Pat Kinevane and Fishamble Theatre Company with the critically acclaimed King (27th–28th October); the hugely entertaining and provocative work.txt (24th–25th October) from one of the UK’s brightest young playwrights, Nathan Ellis and a new and innovative adaptation of Rhinoceros – Rhino – by Eugene Ionesco and from Tinderbox Theatre Company (18th–29th October).

In celebration of Belfast’s designation as UNESCO City of Music, on Saturday 14th October renowned music agent and promoter Paul Charles will host a workshop and discuss his new book, Adventures in Wonderland, while The MAC plays host to Country Roads, an evening of new country music from critically acclaimed Ontario-based duo Aaron & Aimee Allen and the multi award winning Gary Quinn. The following evening, Sunday 15th October, West End star Henry Goodman will be accompanied by pianist Lucy Parham in Elégie: Rachmaninoff, A Heart in Exile which chronicles the life of composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff on the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Discussing their latest literary releases as part of this year’s talks and ideas strand are gifted authors Gary Younge (17th October), Jacqueline Crooks & Santanu Bhattacharya (31st October), Keina Yoshida (1st November), Claire Kilroy & Mike McCormack (2nd November), Rachel Connolly & Nicole Flattery (3rd November), Megan Nolan & Paul Murray (4th November) and many others.

Delivering a special keynote address on leadership (19th October) will be this year’s Featured Artist, Nicholas McCarthy. Born without a right hand in 1989, Nicholas made history in 2012 when he became the only one-handed pianist ever to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music. Since then, he has performed extensively in the UK and internationally, including for the 2015 edition of Belfast International Arts Festival. The talk is one of four special events Nicholas is involved in with this year’s programme. Others include a special guest appearance with the Ulster Orchestra (20th October) and a special free concert at Ulster University (27th October) alongside Acoustronic, the Derry-based ensemble of young musicians founded by NI based composer, Frank Lyons.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “Belfast International Arts Festival returns this Autumn with a packed programme of events. As principal funder, the Arts Council is delighted to welcome another inspirational programme, featuring some of the best local talent, alongside international artists, whose work would almost certainly not otherwise be available to Northern Ireland audiences.

“Running alongside the artistic excellence of the programme is the Festival’s ongoing commitment to community engagement and audience development, ensuring more opportunities for people across society to engage with the arts.”

Belfast City Council Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy said: “I am delighted to see this annual festival in our city continuing to grow and flourish and include such a diverse range of music, theatre, and family entertainment this year.

“Belfast is a city renowned for providing world class entertainment and I have no doubt that audiences arriving in our city will be thrilled with the level of imagination and energy on offer throughout the 26-day festival. I wish the organisers, artists and performers the very best of luck and I hope all visitors enjoy everything that our great city has to offer.”

Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council in Northern Ireland said:

“British Council is delighted to support Belfast International Arts Festival’s 61st edition. We are the festival’s longest standing international partner, and this year sees another world-class line-up of events across the city.

“Celebrating new work from Northern Ireland and around the world during October and November, festival audiences will discover phenomenal circus and acrobatic energy in a double-bill from Morocco and Palestine in the magical surroundings of the Grand Opera House.  Capturing the spirit and traditions of north Africa and the middle east, and a compelling programme of talks, performances, artistic development, workshops and events, we are delighted to work with the festival year-round, profiling Northern Ireland’s artistic excellence, and creating international connections.”

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