Belfast International Arts Festival launches

Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart performs at the festival launch
Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart performs at the festival launch

Belfast International Arts Festival 2017 launched this week with festival director Richard Wakely unveiling an exciting line-up for the annual celebration of contemporary arts and ideas from home and abroad.

Belfast International Arts Festival brings an eclectic fusion of cutting edge performances to the Belfast stage, with 191 events from 14 countries taking place over 23 days from October 6 until October 28 2017, including 12 premieres.

Guests at the launch were treated to a performance from special guest Scottish singer songwriter Karine Polwart, and readings from the 2017 Artists in Residence, Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill.

Karine Polwart appears in the Irish premiere of ‘Wind Resistance’ at The MAC on October 10 and 11, a ‘poignant, unflinching show about healing, protection, the fragility of human life and the world around us’.

Joint artists in residence, Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill, will be bringing poetry to the public realm with ‘The Poetry Jukebox’, a contemporary on-street sound installation at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Other highlights of the Belfast International Arts Festival include: Compassion: The History of the Machine Gun –Berlin’s acclaimed Schaubühne Theatre return to open the festival at the Lyric on October 6 with a hard-hitting new work from the Swiss director Milo Rau exploring the limits of human compassion in a globalised world.

Celui Qui Tombe (He Who Falls) is a perilous spectacle of survival that sees artists swing, spin and pivot on a suspended podium in the Grand Opera House on October 19 and 20.

Gardens Speak is an award winning and deeply moving interactive sound installation from Tania El Khoury containing the oral histories of ten people buried in Syrian gardens; this will run from October 11 until October 22 at 12-13 Shaftesbury Square.

The Tempest – Ireland: Memory: Identity: A major exhibition of large scale will feature sculptural paintings from one of Ireland’s leading artists, Hughie O’Donoghue. Created specially for Belfast International Arts Festival, The Tempest foregrounds three major new pieces of art. The exhibition will be held in Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church from October 10 until October 28.

Hard to be Soft; a Belfast Prayer is a four-part contemporary dance and music spectacle co-commissioned by the festival with Prime Cut and Dublin Dance Festival and bringing together an ensemble of Northern Ireland’s top artists. The production incorporates interviews from people across the city and will close the festival on October 26-28 at the MAC.

Poppies: Weeping Window will feature a deeply moving ceramic sculpture draped across the front of the Ulster Museum from October 14 until December 3, accompanied by a supporting programme of talks, music, theatre and literary events entitled Contested Legacies.

Richard Wakely, festival director on launching the 2017 edition, the fifth line-up of his tenure said:

“This year’s festival explores artists as innovators and activists, addressing the uncertain times we live in. The festival is a place for our communities to gather together with a belief that change is possible. Often entertaining and always enlightening, there is something for everyone in the 2017 Belfast International Arts Festival.”

Roisin McDonough, chief executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:

“Northern Ireland enjoys many arts and cultural festivals, all of which contribute something unique and special to the richness of our creative landscape. The Belfast International Arts Festival is no exception, bringing us world-class acts and using its international profile to promote our home-grown talent, strengthening Northern Ireland’s creative reputation. The Arts Council is proud to support the Belfast International Arts Festival through both Exchequer and National Lottery funding and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to be part of it.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast City Council, cllr Nuala McAllister, spoke at the launch event.

“I’ve chosen ‘Global Belfast’ as the theme for my year in office. So I’m delighted that Belfast City Council is continuing to invest in the Belfast International Arts Festival - it not only attracts international acts, but it also showcases homegrown talent and helps to position Belfast as a must visit cultural destination. I’d encourage everyone to check out this year’s impressive programme and wish everyone involved in the festival the very best of luck.”

For more information on the Belfast International Arts Festival 2017 visit or call 02890 892707.