Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Out To Lunch arts festival - warming up January lunchtimes in Belfast

Out To Lunch arts festival banner

The days are short, the weather’s cold, and the back-to-work blues are all around. The Out To Lunch arts festival is the tonic we normally reach for in January.

Daily shows at 1pm in the Black Box – entertainment and lunch (weekdays) for a mere £5.50. (Evening shows at 8pm for £8.)

The programme stops just short of being organised alphabetically, but does have a certain OCD charm with the scheduling of all the comedy, before all of the speech-based events, and finishing with music! Some picks from the great programme ...


Veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe, Mock the Week, McIntyre and 8 Out of 10 Cats, Daniel Sloss will be performing his latest show on Thursday 6 at 1pm and 8pm. According to the programme, he’s a “comic prodigy and typical half-man-half-Xbox, hormone-ridden teenager”.

Steve Bell cartoon

Newspaper cartoonist Steve Bell is along on Friday 7 at 1pm. He’s the pen behind the memorable image of John Major with his underpants worn on the outside of his trousers and depicted portrayed drew George W Bush as a chimpanzee. He’ll be talking about “how cartoonists capture, interpret and respond to the news”.

Black-rimmed spectacle wearer comedian, songwriter and performance poet John Hegley takes to the Black Box stage at 8pm on Friday 7. If previous shows are anything to go by, expect music, poetry, laughter, mandolin-playing and even some audience participation.

Lucy Porter is a veteran of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festivals and is back on Saturday 8 at 2pm and 8pm with her brand of stand-up comedy.

Words and Ideas

David Soul

Tuesday 11 will be the first time actor David Soul (Starsky & Hutch) has performed on the same stage as his daughter China Soul. She’ll be opening the 1pm and 8pm shows with songs from her debut album Secrets and Words. Then her father will perform the works of the “great Chilean and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, accompanied by guitarist Hugh Burns.

Lunchtime gigs can be difficult. As Shappi Khorsandi discovered, swearing at lunchtime doesn’t work as well.

Another show that will test the Belfast boundaries is Stripped at 1pm on Wednesday 12 (also at 8pm). Reflecting on her own time after acting school working in the “entertainment industry”, Hannah Chalmers plays six characters in her one-woman show. To quote a review from the Edinburgh Fringe:

“She gives us an exclusive backstage tour of the gentlemen's clubs - seen through the eyes of Baby, the newest girl on the block. The performer has a lot of fun with her story, impersonating a whole host of characters along the way … Her story exposes the real economics of the adult-entertainment world, as well as looking at the emotional effects upon those who work in it. There is nothing preachy or judgemental about it; she just tells it how it is.”

Another one-woman show is What would Helen Mirren do? on Thursday 13 at 1pm and 8pm. Anita Parry plays Susan who works part-time on the check-out of a supermarket. Her kids have recently flown the nest and her boss has singled her out for promotion. The management training course she’s sent on changes her outlook on life.

Ian Saville - Marxist Magician

On Friday 1pm, join Marxist magician Ian Saville as he avoids puny tricks like David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear and instead “aims at the much more ambitious goal of making International Capitalism and exploitation disappear”. Serious about his socialism, he’s travelling across “to Belfast via Liverpool ... getting ferry to avoid CO2 emissions”. Previous performance have collected great reviews. (Update - interview with Ian Saville after his OTL show.)


Two brass bands will be tooting and blowing on the Black Box stage from 8pm on Saturday 15. Brass Off! will star The Northern Strand Kontra Band and Balkan Alien Sound take in the genres of Jewish dance, Romanian, Bulgarian and other Balkan states along with fund, drum & bass and odd time signatures.

Elizabeth Cook is billed as one of the festival highlights. She’ll be swapping the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for the Black Box on Sunday 16 at 2pm as she sings country. “Her mixture of sassy humour, emotional honesty and a killer voice is impossible to resist.”

The Shannon Colleens

Female acapella trio The Shannon Colleens will be performing The Songs of James Joyce on Tuesday 18 at 1pm. Bawdy street ballads and sea shanties, as well as music hall hits and folk songs.

Irish band TĂșcan are providing the lunch time entertainment on Friday 21 at 1pm with their hybrid sound that has been described as “some kind of fairytale colossus spewing out metal, flamenco and jazz stained compositions that raise their guitar necks to Tool, Django & Daft Punk”.

There’ll be more of a swing later on at 8pm on Friday 21 with Carmen Ghia and the Hotrods. The six piece rockabilly swing band from Sheffield promise to jazz up your evening.

The Henry Girls / Fox Hunt

Sunday 23 at 2pm brings individual sets from The Henry Girls and Fox Hunt to the Black Box stage, along with a commissioned collaboration that “combines gritty West Virginian Americana with emerging Irish nu-folk”.

Gigs by Liam O’Maonlai (lead singer/pianist for the Hothouse Flowers) and Bronagh Gallagher have both sold out already.

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