If you are planning to visit the vibrant city of Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital city this autumn, you’ll not be disappointed by wants on offer. One very popular and always exciting event is the Belfast International Arts Festival, the city’s longest-running arts event. The Belfast Arts Festival will take place from the 15th of October to 3rd of November 2019.
If you’re a fan of art and culture or just looking to have some fun and see cool things then you’ll want to check out this festival. Returning for its 57th edition; visitors to the city can expect a lively atmosphere brought on by an incredible fusion of cutting edge performances to the Belfast stage.
The Belfast International Arts Festival will host over 100 events around the city including a variety of dance performances, visual arts, music & film showcases, literature and guest talks. The event will also showcase the best of homegrown artists and performers as well as bringing some talented people from around the world to the bright lights of Belfast!
It is sure to be one of the most unmissable events of the year offering a fantastic world-class programme of arts and culture that reflects the city efforts to evolve into a recognised creative hub around the world.
Keep reading to find out more about the history of the event and the amazing things you can expect to enjoy at the 57th edition of the Belfast International Arts Festival.
Dive into the History of the Belfast’s Art Festival
The long-running art festival was first established back in 1962 and was hosted by the renown Queen’s University up until 2015, but then a new independent company was created and took over to help deliver a new and exciting artistic vision for the art festival. It is hosted every October across many iconic and unique venus and locations to help showcase the beautiful city of Belfast.
The main goals behind the creation of the Belfast International Arts Festival were to help promote international art events in Northern Ireland and to engage people both within the local communities and around the world in the richness and diversity that contemporary art offers.
The event helps to create a unique environment where the audience can enjoy and take part in a variety of inspiring and inclusive experiences from world artists, leaders and thinkers.
Each year the art festival continues to grow in popularity by bringing some new and innovative art performances to the city of Belfast helping to turn the place into a much visit cultural destination.
What to Expect at the Festival:
The 57th edition of the festival is sure to impress everyone, with a diverse range of events to include theatre performances to art instalments that will attract a variety of people for a fun three weeks in Belfast City.
Theatre and Dance Highlights:
- From the 8th of October to the 2nd of November you can check out ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ performing at the iconic Lyric Theatre. This is an incredible raw masterpiece created by John Millington Syne, a famous Irish writer and directed by Oonagh Murphy. The play has been met with some controversy since it first premiered at the Abbey Theatre in 1907 for its honest depiction but its definitely one to see.
- From the 22nd of October to 23rd of October ‘Forced Entertainment’ a Sheffield based theatre company will present their theatre performance of ‘Real Magic’ at The Mac Theatre. ‘Real Magic’ will take the audience on a comical and hallucinatory journey with a compelling virtuoso performance.
- ‘The Worst Cafe in the World’ by the Big Telly Theatre Company will be showcasing at the Belfast Arts Festival. The performance has been described as “if reality tv had a lovechild with theatre, this is it”. This is sure to be a pure comedy gold that offers a unique approach to theatre that you won’t want to miss out on.
- Live at the Grand Opera House from the 25th-26th of October is ‘To Da Bone’ presented by French art collective (LA) HORDE, will explore youth culture within a high energy dance and music performance filled with emotions and excitement.
- Chalk it Down an Irish theatre production company will be showcasing their performance of ‘Spliced’ from the 29th -30th of October at the Irish language centre, An Culturlann. A fascinating multi-disciplinary production that explores the pressures of masculine identity, sports and mental health. It will also be followed with a post-show talk from writer and performer Timmy Creed.
- The popular Northern Irish band Two Door Cinema Club will be back in their native city for an unmissable performance at the Belfast Telegraph Building on 16th of October. For anyone who’s not familiar of the band but is a fan of indie rock music, you’ll be sure to enjoy their live gig promoting their newest album False Alarm.
- Cuban singer La Dame Blanche will be back to Belfast to perform at the Belfast Empire Music Hall on the 18th of October. La Dame Blanche is sure to deliver a powerful mix of music including hip-hop, cumbia, dance hall and reggae that will make you want to get up and dance.
- Innovative Japanese sound artist ‘ASUNA’ will be showcasing his work and unforgettable listening experience of ‘100 keyboards’ at the Mac Theatre from the 17th – 19th of October. Asuna offers a unique musical performance through the use of 100 battery operated keyboards to generate an experimental sound for the audience with the incorporation of hip-hop to hardcore punk music styles.
- Darragh Morgan and Ruth McGinley from the Belfast Music Society make their debut outing as a pair at the Belfast Arts Festival. On Sunday the 20th of October the talented musicians will come together for a beautiful classical music showpiece that includes a strong Irish connection and folk song arrangements
- Make sure to also check out Joshua Burnside, a Northern Irish experimental folk singer and songwriter at the Belfast Empire Music Hall on the 1st of November. He’s an exciting up and coming artist that provides a powerful sound that’s worth hearing live with his unique blend of Irish Folk mixed with South American rhythms and Eastern European influences.
Visual Art Events Highlights:
- Make sure to visit the ‘As Many Reps as Possible’ sporting exhibition by the Naughton Gallery from the 10th of October to 1st of December at Queens University. This is their third annual exhibition showcasing the unique relationship between sports and the world of arts. The exhibition will feature a variety of photographs, sculptures, illustrations and videos created by a roster of talented artists that ultimately helps to celebrate sporting culture.
- The Golden Thread Gallery from Northern Ireland will present the solo exhibition and book by David Sherry. It will be showcased from the 12th of October to 23rd of November at the Golden Thread Gallery, it will include a large scale art sculpture along with drawings, videos and performances. It will provide visitors with an interactive experience along with the signature humour David Sherry provides in his work.
- A new and exciting exhibition presented by the Irish Society of Stage and Screen Designers will showcase home and international designers and their collections through a virtual reality world experience in their studies with 360’ visualisations.
- Around the city of Belfast, over 250 artists will welcome the public to their studios for a glimpse into the creative process involved in creating their art pieces as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival. This offers people an unforgettable experience to see art come to life and see unique artwork that has never been shown to the public before.
Talks and Ideas Highlights:
- Take part in the Cathedral Quarter Walking Tour if you are interested in exploring Belfast City through its unique cultural environment, led by knowledgeable tour guides who will fill you in on all the historical and cultural stories of the city along the way. This would also be great for locals who want to find out more about their capital city including a visit to popular spots such as St.Annes Cathedral, Writers Square, Custom House Square, Merchant Hotel and many more.
- On the 17th of October, ‘The Big Wee Ireland Tour’ event will offer visitors an opportunity to hear from famous Scottish poets Hugh McMillan and Magi Gibson for a night of interesting talks and lyrical mischief. The event will also include a lot of homegrown artists including Neil Young as he launches his poetry called ‘Sharpnel.’ The night is all about promoting poetry and stories and sharing cultural, social and historical roots and influences.
- On Sunday the 2nd of November the Ulster Museum will welcome Michael Rosen a well-known writer, poet and performer especially know in the children’s book world, who has a remarkable career spanning 50 years. The event is for all but may interest parents and children alike as well as anybody who’s enthusiastic about the art of stories and poetry as Rosen will have plenty to share at this event.
- Make sure to not miss the Octavia Poetry Collection at the Ulster Sports Club on the 23rd of October. Octavia is a beautiful collection of poetry inspired and for women of colour created by poet Rachel Long. The event will showcase the work of Amina Jama, Sumia Jaaman and of course Rachel Long.
- Experience a mesmerising aerial acrobatics performance by an all-female cast known as Rhizome created by French artist Chloe Moglia. The spectacular performance will incorporate the use of raw strength, vulnerability with live music and special effects to help create a dreamlike journey filled with suspenseful moments in a contemporary piece of art.
- From the 25th – 26th of October Ireland’s first all-island dance conference called ‘Co-Motion’ will be hosted at the Cresent Arts Festival. The event was created to help bring dance practitioner, eductors and supporters together to look at how they can help to promote and develop dance practices for working together. It will host a variety of interviews, panels, artist spotlights and performances to engage in the discussion around dance in Ireland.
These are just some of the highlights you can expect to see at this years Belfast International Arts Festival. But there is a wealth of arts and culture that we haven’t mentioned that you can check out through the festival period this October in Northern Ireland’s capital city.
The festival will provide locals and tourists with a new way of experiencing art through world-class performances, displays and open discussions that is sure to be fun, engaging and diverse just like the city itself. The Belfast Art Festival will leave you inspired through its eclectic mix of events that help to showcase the unbelievable talent the country has to offer.
Have you been to the Belfast International Arts Festival before? Or are you planning to check it out this year? Share with us in the comments below!