The programme for this year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s is out. Scattered through the 80+ pages of music, talk, drama, film and arts, and as usual a number of events attracted my attention. This year the festival runs between Friday 15 and Saturday 30 October.
:: Drama ::
Colin Bateman’s first ever play National Anthem takes centre stage as it premières in the baby Grand between Wednesday 20 and Saturday 30.
Well known for his dark and farcical humour in novels like Divorcing Jack, Bateman’s play is apparently “a fast paced, whip smart attack on the platitudinous language of the ‘new’ Northern Ireland”.
Don’t Shoot The Clowns is Paul Hodson’s adaptation of Jo Wilding’s book describing her journey around Iraq with a hastily recruited circus troupe. “Punchy, playful and sometimes very silly … feisty, funny, political theatre about friendship, suffering and how far an individual has to go to make a difference”. Playing in the Brian Friel Theatre (QFT) between Tuesday 19 and Saturday 23.
:: Family ::
A magical garden is being set up for children in Botanic Gardens by Cahoots NI. Leon’s Enchanted Garden creates an illuminated pathway leading to a topsy-turvy world and “a forest of twinkling trees … creatures and beasties, faeries and pixies, all living in a place where music is in the air and magic is everywhere”. The garden is open on Thursday 14-Saturday 16 October and Thursday 21-Saturday 23 between 7pm and 9.30pm.
In a large tent you can also experience Leon and the Place Between with music, dance and illusion.
I also like the look of Cahoots NI’s Math-a-Magic in which a “team of magical mathematicians [aren’t we all?] throw the text books out of the window in favour of mind-blowing puzzles and dazzling dexterity”. Running on various days and at various times during the festival. “
:: Classical & Opera ::
Postcards from Dumbworld is an opera “set in a bingo hall with appearances from KGB agents, giant rabbits” [so far sounds like a Colin Bateman script!] and “follows the journey of several interconnected individuals” through “a world that is at once surreal and familiar”. Grand Opera House, Thursday 21-Saturday 23 at 7.30pm.
:: Music ::
Chopin is getting an outing on his 200th anniversary of his birth. Musicians will be playing Rush Hour Chopin at Central Station on Friday 15 between 7.30am-9am, and returning at 4.30pm-6pm. And following on from the recent Street Pianos installations, you can sign up on the Festival website to play for 15 minutes in Open Chopin on a piano that will be available in Belfast City Hall on Saturday 16 between 10am-5pm.
:: Talks ::
The talks are always a highlight.
There’s An Audience with Paddy Ashdown in Elmwood Hall at 8.30pm on Wednesday 20. Brought up in Donaghadee, schooled in Bangor, Ashdown returned to Northern Ireland while he was in the army and most recently came back to chair the Strategic Review of Parading. In-between these formative experiences he’s been a diplomat, MP, leader of the Liberal Democrats, member of the House of Lords and spent four years as the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another politician who’s no stranger to NI is Peter Hain is talking on stage to plug his new book Mandela: The Story of a Universal Hero. Peter Hain on Nelson Mandela is in Elmwood Hall at 6.30pm on Saturday 16.
Colm O’Gorman is executive director of Amnesty International Ireland and will be delivering Amnesty’s annual lecture on Thursday 21 at 8.45pm in Elmwood Hall. Entitled Breaking the conspiracy of silence, his talk will address clerical and institutional child abuse in Ireland together with his years of campaigning and legal fight with the Roman Catholic Church as a result of clerical abuse he experienced as a teenager.
Radio 4-philes won’t want to miss An Audience with Jenni Murray in Elmwood Hall at 8pm on Monday 18.
I recently caught up with Claire Keegan’s novel Foster when an abridged version was serialised as the Afternoon Readings on Radio 4. It’s the story of a small girl sent to live with foster parents in rural Ireland without knowing when she will return home. A warm and loving relationship develops, before a secret is revealed, rocking her new-found security. Author Claire Keegan is talking to Marie-Louise Muir in the Crescent Arts Centre at 6pm on Sunday 17.
Local QUB British History Professor, Keith Jeffery publishes in September MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, the only approved history of the Secret Intelligence Service to be commissioned. He’s speaking to Malachi O’Doherty (in front of a paying audience) in Elmwood Hall on Thursday 21.
And Malachi’s back on the Elmwood Hall stage on Tuesday 26 at 8pm. This time he’s talking to Jonathan Stedall, a documentary filmmaker who has … wait for it … just published a book which asks the question Where on Earth is Heaven? Go along and explore the possibilities and the answers given by people he interviewed.
Young architect Paddy Lawson designed the cubist extension to the Ulster Museum. Inspired by the work of European modernists like Mies van der Rohe, he created “the suspended masses of concrete floating over the Botanic Garden. The Forum for Alternative Belfast will tell his little known story featuring original drawings and photographs in An Epoch translated into Space in The Meter House (The Gasworks) at 6pm on Friday 22.
And if architecture’s your thing, check out the panel discussion on Restore, Reuse, Recycle in the Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre at 6pm on Wednesday 20. Panellists Niall McCullough and Dawson Stelfox will be joined by Sarah Newel who the programme describes as “Curator of A study of the Brutalist Buildings in Belfast and Dublin”. That’s an exhibition/study I’d like to see and find out more about!
:: Visual Arts ::
I’ve mentioned Colin Middleton on the blog once before: referring to the story behind his mosaic on a house near Portstewart Strand. Marking the 100th anniversary of his birth, an exhibition of his work is being held in the Crescent Arts Centre between Tuesday 12 October and Saturday 13 November.
Gaming is a two week long game-fest organised by Catalyst Arts (5 College Court) between Tuesday 19 and Saturday 30 (open 11am-5pm). Comouter games, physical games and board games. Go to the gallery and play old games, learn new games. I’m hoping Chuckie Egg will feature.
:: Film ::
Channel 4 are previewing the first episode of their upcoming Building the Titanic series in the QFT at 6.30pm on Thursday 21. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and series experts.