Best of music, comedy and spoken word events at January festival

James Vincent Morrow
James Vincent Morrow

Out to Lunch, the bespoke winter festival that reaches the spots others can’t, is back for a 12th helping of music, comedy, spoken word and literature to warm the winter cockles.

The First Festival in NI’s packed cultural calendar runs from January 6-29, offering audiences a chance to blow off the Christmas cobwebs, banish new year blues and feast on an array of culinary and cultural delights.

Musical highlights from the 12th Out to Lunch programme include the supremely gifted James Vincent McMorrow at the Ulster Hall and multiple Grammy-winning Mary Chaplin Carpenter at St Anne’s Cathedral.

Mark Kermode’s Dodge Brothers will be twanging and hollering their way into our collective hearts, Tom Robinson presents Raphael Doyle, a singer-songwriter with an extraordinary story.

Join amiina for their latest adventure, Fantômas, where they play their live score along with a screening of the silent masterpiece from 1913. Adrian Sherwood & Pinch offer up a dark, deep and moody future-dub soundscape at Voodoo. Ulaid & Duke Special bring The Belfast Suite to Out to Lunch.

Post punk heroes RutsDC are set to light up the Black Box, whilst rare groove king, DJ Norman Jay MBE brings his eclectic sounds to the Black Box, as do the very special DJ duo of experimental/ psychedelic musician, Kavus Torabi and one Steve Davis, the most successful professional Snooker Player of his generation.

Turin Brakes, Mulligan Brothers, Aja Arkestra, Alana & Jarlath Henderson and Barb Jungr singing the songs of Bob Dylan are some of the other exceptional musical treats in a programme glutted with singers and song.

Festival favourite and all-round good egg Martin Stephenson will bring The Daintees to town to perform their classic Boat to Bolivia album in its glorious entirety, 30 years after it was released.

Out to Lunch closes with an epic gig with Billy Bragg and Joe Henry Shining a Light”in the Ulster Hall.

Noirin McKinney, director of arts development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council is delighted to support the 2017 Out to Lunch Festival which is a major attraction for locals and visitors to the city every new year. The unique festival programme offers something for everyone and makes a great contribution to the creative life and economic regeneration of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.”

Festival director Sean Kelly said: “It’s been a surprise and pleasure to watch Out to Lunch grow from a small scale, once-off event in 2006 to a major Winter arts festival for the city featuring artists the calibre of Billy Bragg in the Ulster Hall and Mary Chapin Carpenter in St Anne’s Cathedral.

“At its heart however, the festival’s offer remains unchanged – a quality, diverse and affordable range of arts events in intimate settings that shows the city at its forward-looking best. We hope the people of Belfast, and visitors to the city, will join us getting 2017 off to a creative start and will ‘fill their boots’ with lots of great comedy, theatre and music.”

Out to Lunch nonmusical gems include Phil Hammond NHS doctor, BBC broadcaster, Private Eye journalist and whistle-blowing comic, who combines both of his 2016 sell-out four star Edinburgh fringe shows in one unforgettable evening.

The incredible Lemn Sissay returns to the festival fold to deliver his uniquely wonderful poetry. Say “Yes” to Yes with spiritual guru (and occasional comedy genius) Kevin McAleer in a life-changing hour of living fully in the moment, with meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, bee venom therapy, psychic flower arranging, singing with dolphins and digital photography.

The inimitable and universally loved Ponydance present Idiom, wherein Leonie Pony offers up a lunchtime of insouciant reflection on her longest lasting love affair. Performance Poet extraordinaire Mike Garry returns to us, fresh from beguiling us with his stunning support slot for John Cooper Clarke at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poems Death of a Naturalist is brought to life by Painted Bird (in collaboration with artist Neil O’Driscoll) through a dazzling combination of live drawing, animation, audio soundscape and live performance.

Further Ted is an evening of hilarity with three of the funniest Father Ted “priests”: Michael Redmond, Joe Rooney and Patrick McDonnell. A Rabbie Burns Lunch features a bagpiper, toasts, haggis, neeps and tatties, not to mention a bit of poetry and some famous Burns songs by singer songwriter Hugh Jordan. Comedian Zoe Lyons brings her brilliant Little Misfit show to out to Lunch following a year that has seen her appearing on Zoe hits the road after a year that has seen her appearing on Live at the Apollo, The John Bishop Show and scooping the Chortle Best Comic award. The Importance of Being Oscar, meanwhile, is a compelling theatrical tapestry by which reveals the wit, triumph and tragedy of Oscar Wilde, in an explosion of richness, boldness, passion and beauty.

The Lords of Strut present Late Night TV Talk Show: a fantastical hour of slapstick mayhem in the guise of a TV talk show and Lucy Grace presents Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield - the huge CS Lewis/ Narnia-inspired Edinburgh hit.

This January you are also invited to take weekend elevenses with you at Out to Brunch: a series of earlier events to mark the NI Year of Food and Drink. The impressive Brunch menu ranges from Breakfast Stout Club and Early Morning Tales to Mark Kermode talking movies over a muffin.

For full programme information visit