The annual Out to Lunch festival in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter offers a welcome glow of warmth each January with its selection of lunchtime theatre, comedy and music (as well as a few evening gigs for those who can’t slip out of their city centre offices for an hour in the middle of the day).
This year’s programme has just been launched, and a quick skim though shows that there’s a lot to look forward to this year. Of course, this is my prejudiced sample! Check out the full programme to see what I’ve missed. All the events are in the Black Box, with lunchtime gigs still pegged to only £5 (with a hot lunch thrown in) and evening events varying from £8-12.
Comedy comes in the guise of ...
- Robin Ince Versus the Moral Majority (Wed 6 Jan at 1pm and 8pm) who will be a familiar voice/face to fans of Radio 4 shows like The News Quiz and Just A Minute as well as BBC Two’s Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Pitched as: “Who was right, Orwell or Huxley? Are we amusing ourselves to death? Angry tirades, then quiet musings from one of the best brains in comedy.” Update - Understandably cancelled due to travel problems related to the snowy weather!
- Karl Spain (Thu 7 Jan at 1pm and 8pm) who once “Wanted a Woman” on RTE but now wants to talk about “religion, love, dieting and being Irish”. Update - quick (make that briefest of brief) review.
Straight-talking will be the order of the
day lunchtime for ...
- Labour MP Chris Mullin (Fri 15 Jan at 1pm) as he gives his perspective on life as an MP in “A View From the Foothills”. Appointed to Government, he voted against the Iraq War. He is promised to be “irreverent, dry and candid” in his insight into serving on various parliamentary committees and his annoyance at “tax-payer’s money being spent on ministerial cars he didn’t want to use”.
- I’d imagine that tickets will be snapped up quickly for writer and hostage Brian Keenan’s appearance (Wed 13 Jan at 1pm) to discuss his new memoir I'll Tell Me Ma describing his “disaffected childhood” in 1950s Belfast. Update - reviewed.
If I’m honest, it’s the drama (loose definition!) that draws me in each year.
- Rebecca Vaughan is performing Austen’s Women (Thu 14 Jan at 1pm and 8pm) taking a comedic look at 19th century feminism using nothing but the words of Austen’s books and thirteen of her female characters. The reviews from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe look good – the Edinburgh Evening News swallowed a dictionary when it wrote that Austen’s Women “could give a few tips to some comedy shows, not just in timing and subject material, but use of pathos and verisimilitude.” Apparently knowledge of Austen is an advantage but not a prerequisite. Update - reviewed.
- Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer (Sun 17 Jan at 8pm) is on “a one-man mission to introduce Hip-Hop to the Queen’s English”. Stiffen your upper lip and listen to Mr B’s ditties as he reworks familiar Hip-Hop pieces into an altogether more polite, pipe-smoking, high society Chap Hop.
- Sticky Bivouac (Sat 16 Jan at 8pm) is described as “an absurdist, high-energy performance” as street clown and Foolosophist Jeff Window (played by Paul Currie) returns to Belfast with music, mime, puppets and innuendo. Watch out for audience participation! Post show cabaret folk rock from Katie and the Carnival.
Bookish folk may want to gravitate towards the free Black Books market (Sun 17 Jan, noon–5pm) in the Black Box featuring book sellers (rare, antiquities, children’s literature and plain old second hand) along with word-based entertainment (readings, performances, DIY publishing workshops and film screenings) in the Black Box Café.
Less taxing musical interludes include ...
- The Demesne String Quartet (Tue 19 Jan at 1pm) whose repertoire spans from Bach to Bacharach through Purcell, Britten, Copland and Gershwin. Andrea Rea on violin/viola, Fergus Fitzpatrick on cello, Brendan Popplestone on guitar and Rachel Thompson on voice (soprano)!
- Zoë Conway was the star fiddler at the 2009 Out to Lunch festival (returning later in the year as part of the main Cathedral Arts Quarter programme). This year’s fiddling falls to Niamh ni Charra (Thu 21 Jan at 1pm) who is All-Ireland Champion on both fiddle and concertina (though presumably won’t be playing both simultaneously). She toured with Riverdance for eight years, has supported the Chieftains, and her 2007 album made it to the Mojo Top Ten Folk Album list.
- Sam Baker (Sun 24 Jan at 2pm) was “badly injured in a bomb explosion in Peru in 1986 [and] had to completely relearn how to play the guitar with his mangled left hand” as well overcome his hearing loss to develop “his uniquely hushed and quietly powerful performance style”.
- Open Arts Community Choir (Wed 27 Jan at 1pm) came to fame in BBC One’s Last Choir Standing. Running for nine years and open to anyone over 16 “regardless of disability, race, gender or past musical experience” they’ll be performing from their wide range of “Gospel to Pop, and World to Cabaret”. Update - reviewed.
- Or there’s blues from Grainne Duffy (Fri 29 Jan at 1pm), innovative guitar from Beppe Gambetta (Thu 28 Jan at 1pm), a choice of 30 instruments from “homespun Americana and raw minimalist rock” The Low Anthem (Wed 27 Jan at 8pm) or the brassy Haggis Horns + Dada DJs (Sat 30 Jan at 8pm).
Amongst the eclectic mix, something for everyone.