Belfast Festival at Queen's

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Belfast International Arts Festival
Belfast Festival Logo.png
Belfast Festival at Queen's logo
Genre Arts festival
Begins 11 October 2016
Ends 29 October 2016
Frequency Annual
Location(s) Belfast, Northern Ireland
Years active 54
Inaugurated 1962
Patron(s) Ulster Bank

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's is an annual arts festival held in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The 50th Festival took place from 19 October to 4 November 2012.[1] It was announced in March 2015 that the University would not continue with the festival and was going to stop funding the festival.[2] However, the festival has continued with the new name of the Belfast International Arts Festival.[3]


Held annually, usually in November, the festival is primarily run by Queen's University Belfast. It was founded by student Michael Emmerson in 1962.[4]

From small beginnings the festival grew through the 1960s and 1970s, expanding to a two-week-long event. Performers during this time included Jimi Hendrix, Laurence Olivier, Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connolly.

The festival is held at several venues across the city, including The MAC, Ulster Hall, the Naughton Gallery, the Queen's Film Theatre, the Brian Friel Theatre and the Whitla Hall at Queen's, as well as the Grand Opera House, the Waterfront Hall and An Chultúrlann arts centre.

2004 festival[edit]

The 2004 Festival covered the familiar areas of World / Theatre / Dance, Music / Opera Song /, Jazz / Blues / World /, Tours, Folks / Roots, Comedy, Exhibitions, Talks (Sponsored by BT), Sounds, Family and Film.

Among the acts to take place, Alladeen, Jimi Carr, Mark Thomas, Ross Noble, Paul Abbott, Kate Rusby.

The Festival replaced its Box Office software in an effort to improve online sales and catch-up on the trend developing in the city.As the Grand Opera House Belfast had established the first online sales for the arts community in Belfast under the direction of Michael Kelly and Andrew Muir in 2001, Michael Kelly was employed as a consultant to help with a re-brand of the Festival website and online e-commerce which had proved problematic. With funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland a replacement system was installed in the summer months with a view to a major overhaul of the Festivals online presence to come.

2005 festival[edit]

In recent years the festival has expanded further and now claims to be the largest arts festival in Ireland, showcasing local talent as well as international artists. The 2005 festival took place between 21 October and 6 November, and covered theatre, politics, dance, classical music, literature, jazz, comedy, visual arts, folk music and popular music. Guests included Harry Hill, Joanne Harris, George Galloway, Robert Fisk, Louis Theroux, Grandmaster Flash, Rich Hall, and theatre productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Clockwork Orange. BBC Northern Ireland provided comprehensive radio and television coverage of the Festival, principally through Festival Nights on BBC2, presented by Marie-Louise Muir and Ralph McLean. The 2006 festival programme was launched on 7 September 2006 at Queen's Film Theatre. The 44th festival ran from 19 October to 4 November. Performances included José Cura, a celebrated musical theatre company from South Africa and the world music 'kings' of "rumba flamenca". Speaking at the Waterfront Hall launch, 2006 festival director Graeme Farrow said:

Belfast Festival at Queen's aims to refresh the parts that other events throughout the year can't reach and we are confident that the 2006 festival programme – further details of which will be released in the coming months – will set a high benchmark for years to come.

2007 festival[edit]

The 2007 festival ran from 19 October to 3 November 2007. Acts included The Blind Boys of Alabama, John Prine, Bill Bailey, Sean Hughes, Ute Lemper, Andreas Scholl and a performance of Brian Irvine's The Tailor's Daughter.

Funding crisis[edit]

In January 2007, sufficient funding was not in place to ensure that the 2007 festival would go ahead, and the university launched a 'Save Belfast Festival' campaign, encouraging people to petition Maria Eagle MP, then minister responsible for cultural activities in Northern Ireland.[5] The campaign received support from the Belfast Telegraph and celebrities including Patrick Kielty.[6] On 16 February 2007 the Minister announced a £150,000 one-off payment to the Belfast Festival at Queen's, although the campaign to raise more funds continued throughout the year.[7] The university subsequently announced that the 2007 festival would go ahead, albeit on a reduced scale, but that work is still required to secure its long-term future.[8] On 18 December 2007, Arts Minister, Edwin Poots, announced a grant of £300,000 over three years for the Belfast Festival at Queen's.[9]


On 8 February 2008, Ulster Bank Group chief executive, Cormac McCarthy, announced a three-year sponsorship deal worth over £1m for the Belfast Festival at Queen's. It was hailed as a "new dawn" for the festival which had been suffering underfunding.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Belfast Festival at Queen's. "Festival 2011". Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Belfast Festival at Queen’s axed. "Belfast Festival at Queen’s axed". Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Meredith, Robbie (23 July 2015). "Belfast Festival to go ahead despite loss of Queen's University funding". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  4. ^ Culture Northern Ireland. "The 1960s Revival". Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Patrick Clarke, Letters: Join campaign to help save Belfast Festival, Belfast Telegraph, 15 January 2007, accessed 16 January 2007
  6. ^ Star Kielty stands up for festival, Belfast Telegraph, 19 January 2007, accessed 3 March 2007
  7. ^ Festival remaining on life support, Belfast Telegraph, 19 January 2007, accessed 3 March 2007
  8. ^ Belfast Festival at Queen's to continue at least in 2007, Queen's University Belfast press release, 6 March 2007, accessed 10 March 2007
  9. ^ a b McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "Festival future looks bright with £1m deal". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 3. 
  10. ^ McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "£1m 'new dawn' deal for Queen's Festival". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 1. 

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