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Festival News

Festival announces 2023 autumn highlights from folk rock veterans to Moroccan acrobats

Fresh from its milestone 60th year celebrations, Belfast International Arts Festival is now at the dawn of a new decade of world-class arts programming as it reveals highlights of its 2023 autumn season in rock and roll fashion.

Folk-rock veterans The Waterboys are set to take their shapeshifting brand of music-making to Belfast’s Ulster Hall while contemporary circus show FIQ! by Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger brings a whirlwind of acrobatics to the Grand Opera House this October.

The festival returns for its 61st edition from 12th October – 5th November and, for the first time, will open simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic as The Vanishing Elephant, a new collaboration between the festival and Cahoots NI, opens at the New Victory Theater on Broadway, New York before returning home to Belfast in October 2024.

Announced alongside The Waterboys and FIQ! are special concerts with local artists Cara Dillon, one of the finest exponents of traditional Irish song, and The Belfast Ensemble, who will be joined on stage by the critically acclaimed vocalist Marc Almond.

Belfast International Arts Festival’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Richard Wakely, said: “As we emerge from our momentous 60th year, these signature events kickstart a new decade for our festival, setting out as we mean to go on with a true celebration of international artistic talent.

“They sustain that momentum, offering Belfast audiences a unique blend of contemporary arts and culture from the Middle East and North Africa complemented by homegrown musicians from across these islands. The events also throw forward to this year’s festival as they reflect the artistic diversity of our autumn programme which we look forward to sharing with the public in August.”

Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Nortern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council, as long-time principal funder, is proud to support Northern Ireland’s flagship festival of contemporary international arts. We are excited to see the first shows announced for the 61st year of this wonderful festival which continues to bring world-class arts to audiences here, a true showcase and meeting place for inspiring new ideas and new creativity.”

In the first of a trio of events at Belfast’s Grand Opera House, the venue will host An Evening with Marc Almond and The Belfast Ensemble on Tuesday 17th October. The special two-part event will see 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 in an intense one-man tour de force that’s not to be missed.

The following evening, Wednesday 18th October, much-loved folk artist Cara Dillon will take to the stage to perform songs from her new album Coming Home, accompanied by original music written by Sam Lakeman.

On Friday 20th and Saturday 21st October, an otherworldly collection of acrobatic feats, figures, music, sketches and choreography exploding in a colourful visual world created by Hassan Hajjaj graces the stage. FIQ! by Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger is a contemporary circus show built of modern, tumbling alchemy, set to sounds by DJ Dino and fiery rap, all with a Moroccan touch.

Meanwhile, on Saturday 28 October at the Ulster Hall, veteran rockers The Waterboys make their awaited return to Belfast following the release of Mike Scott and company’s 15th studio album, All Souls Hill, last year.

Tickets for all of this year’s early bird events will be available from Monday 5th June.

For more information and to book, visit belfastinternationalartsfestival.com.