Belfast Festival reprieved, but gets a new name

Launching the festival are Richard Wakely, festival programme director, Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council NI and Stephen Cruise, head of branch banking, Ulster Bank
Launching the festival are Richard Wakely, festival programme director, Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council NI and Stephen Cruise, head of branch banking, Ulster Bank

A decades-old Belfast festival which had been hanging in the balance has been rescued, and will run once again this year – albeit under a different name.

The Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, formerly known as the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, will run again this October.

One significant change is that instead of being largely confined to the south Belfast Queen’s University campus, events will be staged all across the city – taking in east, west and north Belfast as well as the south.

In March the News Letter had reported that the annual festival (which had begun in 1961) was in serious danger of discontinuing after host Queen’s withdrew its support, amounting to about 13 per cent of its total funds.

The festival had been costing roughly £1m to stage each year.

However, the university had said that in order to make it a truly “world-class” event, it should have a budget of roughly double that, and that in the face of education spending cutbacks it was opting to concentrate on its own “core business”.

This year’s festival budget is going to be £800,000.

Ulster Bank remains the main sponsor, and previous backers including the Arts Council, Belfast City Council and British Council are continuing to provide support.

A full line-up will be published in September.

For more details click here.