Every year, the Belfast Festival brings the best of international art to Belfast while also drawing international attention to the city’s own dynamic arts scene. The largest festival of its kind in Ireland, it offers a full-on calendar of theatre, dance, classical music, literature, jazz, comedy, visual arts, folk music and popular music and attracts audiences of more than 50,000 people each year.
This year just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the festival. So expect an especially epic festival for 2012. As festival director, Shan McAnena puts it:
Fifty-years ago Festival was a new cultural gateway between Belfast and the world. Since then a whole forest of innovative, creative, unique artistic offering has grown up around it contributing to an invigorated, positive image of Belfast as a vibrant cultural and economic capital, as a place with a great quality of life in which it is a pleasure to do business.
Officially titled the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the 2012 festivities begin October 19th and run until the 4th of November. With a mission to “provide the best total arts experience in Ireland, and to portray a positive image of Belfast and the region and act as a catalyst for creative initiatives through the delivery of high-quality invited and commissioned events.” It's a tall order but one that seems to have been filled with as exciting line up as anyone could dream up.
Superstars along the lines of Dizzy Gillespie, Ravi Shankar, Laurence Olivier and Jimi Hendrix have all performed at the Belfast Festival. Those scheduled for the 2012 festival are impressive as well with hit acts, including stars such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Belfast's own native son Van Morrison.
The Morrison performances (October 20th and November 2nd) will include a sparkling wine reception and a four-course meal before “settling down to experience an intimate performance that will span Van’s classic back catalogue and previews of his upcoming album, Born to Sing: No Plan B.” As you might imagine, tickets for this gig are in short supply if not already completely sold out.
Whether you're into classical music, Shakespeare, Dickens, children's theatre or adult comedy, there's something for everyone at this year's Belfast Festival. A complete calendar of events and interactive program can be viewed online at belfastfestival.com.
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