Jazz, historical theatre, movies and literary workshops galore

Tabitha Smyth as Dorothy from  Northern Ireland  Stars, artist Barry Mulholland from Creative Exchange and Andrea Deloney, singer with Anuna at the launch of the Eastside Arts Festival.
Tabitha Smyth as Dorothy from Northern Ireland Stars, artist Barry Mulholland from Creative Exchange and Andrea Deloney, singer with Anuna at the launch of the Eastside Arts Festival.

EastSide Arts Festival is getting ready to bring 11 days of inspiring events to the east of the city and beyond from August 10 until August 21, with a programme of music, comedy, movie screenings, theatre, talks, tours and art exhibitions to take place in some 40 venues across east Belfast and the city centre.

Among this year’s musical highlights are two headline concerts which will be staged in the beautiful and unique setting of St Patrick’s Church, Ballymacarrett. Be enchanted with the beautiful atmospheric vocals of Anúna or spend an evening in the company of musician and headmaster of rock, Nick Lowe.

Check out east Belfast’s award-winning musician Kaz Hawkins, who will bring her band to entertain with their signature take on the blues, or renowned saxophonist Keith Donald who brings his one-man drama tracing a life in music to the Belvoir Players Studio. For younger audiences there’s the Ossia Music Rock School followed by a youth gig featuring East Belfast indie rock band, The Late Twos. Woodstock Rhythm & Blues Festival opens proceedings this year with six days of music in venues featuring the sounds of local artists including Amanda St John, Anthony Toner, Ken Haddock and Ronnie Greer.

Other festival highlights to note include special tributes to iconic films at Strand Arts Centre such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Big Lebowski and in the spirit of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, a 20th anniversary screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Literary types will enjoy a special page to stage event with novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell and Rosemary Jenkinson, whose work has been staged on multiple occasions at the Lyric Theatre. There will also be a Literary Supper Club featuring the best emerging poets with Alice McCullough topping the bill.

The Creative Exchange Artists Studios will mark their 20th anniversary celebrations during the festival. Using locations such as the former Engine Room Gallery at Portview Trade Centre, the occasion will feature exhibitions, debates, talks and a community art workshop.

Other festival visual art highlights include a Poolside Watercolour exhibition at Templemore Swimming Baths, a sensory dining experience at Framewerk and a series of social arts events at St Martin’s Church.

To mark the Somme anniversary renowned local actors Sam and Joan McCready, along with a brass quintet from the Ulster Orchestra, present Letters From The Front, a theatre piece comprised of a selection of poems and letters giving accounts of this harrowing time. Also featured in this year’s drama programme is one act play The Prodger - a story about a Catholic Irishman who fought at the Somme. Veteran writer and thespian Sam will also feature in a production entitledNo Surrender by Robert Harbinson, a gifted Ulster writer who was born in Belfast’s Dee Street.

A dose of comedy will be provided for audiences with the production of Neil Dougan’s Herectics and Head the Balls - a humorous look back over 500 years of Protestant culture, while history enthusiast Tim McGarry goes Over The Top with a brand new standup show surveying 1916, the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

Following on from their hugely successful Belfast Tempest, intercultural theatre company Terra Nova Productions will deliver a Romeo and Juliet themed Shakespeare masterclass over two evenings and you can spend a morning creating thread art with Redhead Thread’s craft workshop. Older people can try out some circus skills and young ones can go Claycrazy at the Strand Arts Centre. Additional free community events range from Jazz On A Summers Day at Park Avenue Hoteland activities for young and old at Victoria Park.

This year’s programme will also see many festival performers provide taster shows at nursing and residential homes across east Belfast.

l For more information on the EastSide Arts Festival 2016 visit www.eastsidearts.net or see Facebook/EastSideArtsBel or @EastSideArtsBel on Twitter.