Ex-festival director dies

MICHAEL Barnes, who was the director of the Belfast Festival at Queen's for two decades, has died at the age of 76.

Mr Barnes was to a large extent synonymous with the Festival and Queen’s since he was appointed its director in 1973.

Born in south London, he first became interested in acting when he went to Alleyn’s School on a scholarship.

After graduating from Oxford, to which he won a scholarship in history, he took up his first job at Edinburgh University, where he taught for a number of years.

While there, he did some theatrical work, including some very successful shows for the Festival Fringe.

His next job brought him to Queen’s as a lecturer, and later he became a senior lecturer in history. He was involved in the beginning of the Festival in the early 1960’s.

In the late 1960s, his involvement with the arts in Belfast deepened. In 1968 he was invited to start the Queen’s Film Theatre and five years later, to be Festival director.

In 1978 he was given extended leave to take up the post of general administrator and artistic director of the Grand Opera House. He eventually decided not to return to academic life.

After over 20 years as director of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Michael Barnes retired in 1994.

Graeme Farrow, director of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, expressed his sadness at Mr Barnes’ death.

“We were very saddened by this news. We won’t forget Michael’s tremendous achievements at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, or his singular charisma,” he said.

“Michael put the Belfast Festival at Queen’s on the map in Northern Ireland and I am still taken aback by how fondly he is regarded in the minds of the many artists and agents who I deal with on a daily basis.

“It is clear that his personality and vision left a mark on many people who met him.”