Try music, comedy or bright ideas for lunch throughout January

Viv Albertine joins the Out to Lunch line-up
Viv Albertine joins the Out to Lunch line-up

Got the January blues? The Out to Lunch festival is, as ever, the antidote, with a vivacious collection of music, comedy, literature and drama including affordable lunchtime performances.

Food critic Jay Rayner will discuss our love of bad restaurant reviews, rising star of the left, journalist, author and commentator Owen Jones will discuss his most recent publication, The Establishment and How They Get Away With It, while comic and scientist Robin Ince takes a jocular, inquiring look at the past 100 years of psychiatry.

One of Britain’s most renowned poets, Simon Armitage joins the line-up alongside Irish author Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy) who is part of an evening of words and music with songwriter Colum Sands.

Punk Viv Albertine - one of few women to be part of the scene when Sid Vicous was the last word in cool, front runner of female band The Slits - will perform at the Harp Bar, reliving the highs and lows from her acclaimed memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, some 28 years since she hung out with Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLauren and The Clash. Albertine is also rumoured to have spent 24 hours chained to Sid Vicous - which is bound to produce some interesting anecdotes.

The music line-up is wildly varied with bluegrass from Special Consensus John Denver and beatbox pyrotechnics from Shlomo, plus the best kind of addictive soul from Booker T Jones and leftfield folk from Martin Stephenson and the Dainties. On January 10 musical artists including the Four of Us, Anthony Toner and Matt McGinn will congregate for a special evening - A Last Waltz for Gerry - commemorating the legendary BBC broadcaster and former bassist with The Hawks at the Oh Yeah Centre, with all proceeds from the night going to the Foyle Hospice.

There will be improv drama in Austentatious, where actors work from audience suggestion on plotlines and themes from the grand dame of romantic fiction - Jane Austen, stand-up Sarah Pascoe ponders her romantic history and existential theories, noting, archly, that the ‘past contains wars, Kim Jong Il and your ex’ and Christine Bovill will perform the achingly beautiful music of Edith Piaf.

Out to Lunch director Sean Kelly said he was delighted to be able to present such a packed programme in spite of a difficult year for the arts: “In this current climate of cuts, where the arts, alongside other sectors, are really up against it, the challenge has been to maintain the quality, scale and - most importantly – the accessibility of our programme.

“It’s been tough, but we’re delighted, not to say relieved, to have pulled it off for our landmark 10th Out to Lunch.”

Noirin McKinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, principal funder of the festival, added: “The Out to Lunch Festival is a major attraction for locals as well as visitors to the city, getting the new year off to a lighting start. Once again, the line up is impressive and I would encourage the public to go along and experience this unique festival which offers something for everyone and makes a great contribution to the creative life and economic regeneration of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.”

The 10th Out to Lunch Festival continues in venues across the Cathedral Quarter until January 25. For details visit www.cqaf.com.