Belfast Festival preview – Casement, Cooper and Chekhov (11-29 October) #BelFest

QUICK PREVIEW of the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival which runs from 11-29 October. The life and legacy of Roger Casement is examined, along with 100 years of women’s emancipation, the refugee crisis (with a lecture by MP Yvette Cooper on how the UK should do more), Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women, a new adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters by Lucy Caldwell, a play about RUC and Garda officers patrolling the border and three concerts by the flamboyant Taylor Mac.

Is Turandot the most controversial artistic production ever staged in Northern Ireland?

Following their successful production of Salome back in February, NI Opera’s Steven Hadley introduces the company’s next show Turandot [Ed – everyone can hum along with Nessun Dorma!] which he promises will challenge audience views on wealth, consumerism and the power of art to shock, educate and entertain. Is Northern Ireland ready? Northern Ireland Opera are closing this autumn’s Belfast International Arts Festival with three performances of the lavish Turandot by Giacomo Puccini at the Grand Opera House. It’s a … Read more

Belfast Festival at Queens is dead … long live Belfast Festival (without QUB funding)

Queen’s University, Belfast have today announced that they are ending their financial support for the Belfast Festival. The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens received 13% of its funding from the university, which also hosted many events on its premises over the last 52 years. While QUB blame the significant cuts to the public purse and their finances, the also point to the results of a recent strategic review of the festival “which endorsed the need for a redesigned and … Read more

More Than A Flag – East Belfast bandsmen poignantly look back at WW1 as the audience see potential #BelFest

Twelve young guys who couldn’t be much older than twenty. Most with no acting experience. Some haven’t been in a theatre never mind standing on a stage. Bandsmen. Proud of their community, proud of their culture and their flag. Often derided, stereotyped, and written off. Over the last couple of months, Dan Gordon has realised a long held dream and produced More Than A Flag, a powerful piece of community arts by Happenstance Theatre that will be premièred in the … Read more

Paul Conroy explaining why Syria is not only a dangerous place for journalists #BelFest

War photographers must be wired differently to the rest of us. They feel fear, yet they seem to suppress the instinct to do anything about it. They are calm in the middle of a disrupted and dangerous reality. Paul Conroy opened the Amnesty lecture at Belfast Festival with the tale of how he first met journalist Marie Colvin and travelled around the Middle East by raft, boat, road and driven on the back of a motorcycle through minefields. Leaving countries … Read more

#BelFest Jonathan Powell: “terrorists are often better negotiators than governments”

Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair’s chief of staff. When it came to the peace process he rolled up his own sleeves in 1997 and flew across incognito to Belfast and made his way up to Derry to meet Martin McGuinness face-to-face having been driven round the city in a taxi for an hour. He continued to meet Sinn Fein in low profile locations for the next ten years in addition to more formal and public engagements. The political negotiator and … Read more

Extra tickets now available for Paul Conroy’s talk at Belfast Festival (Monday 9.15pm talk added) #BelFest

Good news for all those people who were disappointed when the lecture by war photographer and film maker Paul Conroy at this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s sold out very quickly. Tickets for a second talk has been just been released for 9.15pm on Monday evening. Paul Conroy was lucky to escape with his life in the Syria rocket attack which killed his journalist colleague Marie Colvin in 2012. Since, he has watched with growing horror as friends … Read more

Schaubühne’s “An Enemy of the People” – an incredible political thriller coming to Belfast Festival #BelFest

Dirty politics, abandoned loyalties, live music, paint thrown around and questions about the role of individuals and the state … The plot of An Enemy of the People could be a big screen thriller in the cinema. Instead this is probably the best of a new generation of theatre that will play on the island of Ireland this year, courtesy of the Belfast Festival. It’s also the only time you’ll ever see a paint fight in the Grand Opera House. … Read more

Pending Vote: Democracy 101 in the Lyric as part of #BelFest

Over a hundred people filed into the Lyric’s Naughton Studio clutching their digital binary voting handsets: we used our fingers to press the Yes or No buttons. Seated on three sides of the small theatre facing a large screen with a blinking cursor, the audience quickly got used to answering questions as the timer counted down to zero. For a while Roger Bernat’s Pending Vote felt like the true beginnings of the much lauded seldom found new politics in Northern … Read more

A little bit of politics at the Belfast Festival – turning a theatre into a parliament

A few events touching on politics from the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s which runs from Thursday 17 to Sunday 27 October. Pending Vote is the Irish première where the theatre becomes a parliament and the audience have remote controls to vote to decide the future of our community and the evening’s performance. Lyric Theatre – Naughton Studio, 8pm, Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 October. £12. Voting on relevant issues for the Northern Ireland public without avoiding topics such … Read more

50:50 is back … for arts festivals

Nelson McCausland speaking about unionist culture the night before the main November 2010 DUP conference

Should arts festivals (that receive public funding) display a balance across their programming of musical tastes and political opinion? Nelson McCausland is in the news again. It’s a question that’s raised once more as the BBC lead their bulletins with the results of an FOI request to DCAL that has revealed the local minister’s directions to the Belfast Festival. This morning’s BBC report explains: The email is part of an exchange between the director of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, … Read more