The 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s took place from 19 October to 4 November 2012. Dance, music, theatre, visual arts, film, classical and world music all came to life in many forms during this autumnal event.
Van Morrison, Buena Vista Social Club, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Ray Davies were just some of the internationally acclaimed artists who appeared during the 50th Belfast Festival at Queen’s.
Starting as a small campus based event in 1961, Festival has featured names such as Jimi Hendrix, Michael Palin, Billy Connolly, Dizzy Gillespie, Kylie Minogue and Rowan Atkinson. Today, Belfast Festival at Queen’s is the largest and most diverse arts Festival in Ireland.
The 50th Festival has been billed as a celebration for the entire city, featuring both home-grown and international artists, authors and performers taking part in 185 events across the city. Encouraging everyone to get involved with the 50th celebrations, this year’s Festival included 60 free events, whilst two thirds of shows cost less than £15.
Speaking at the launch, Festival Director, Shan McAnena, said: “There is music in shopping centres, churches and museums, comedy at the heart of Queen’s University, theatre in offices, public baths and bars, and art in the open air. From hip-hop to opera, hunting for fairies to ghosts in the dark, from international super-stars to local heroes, we are proud to present to the city of Belfast the largest and most eclectic arts festival in Ireland.”
Theatrically, the 50th Festival played host to a number of firsts: The acclaimed National Theatre Company of Scotland’s production Enquirer - in association with The London Book Review - based on interviews with leading figures in the newspaper industry, came to Belfast for its Irish premier, and the controversial production Minsk, from the Belarus Free Theatre, also made its Irish debut as part of the 2012 programme. Another Irish debut was the long-awaited new work from Michael Clark whilst the Tron Theatre Company’s brilliant re-imagining of Joyce’s Ulysses also made an Ireland debut at Festival.
This year’s Festival also boasted performances by leading soprano Lesley Garrett; Stephen Hough - described as one of the most important pianists of his generation; the unique and powerful partnership of pianist Imogen Cooper and baritone Wolfgang Holzmier and the lyrical magic of Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling. Alongside a strong programme of talks including appearances by Peter Hain, Jonathan Miller, Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Higgins, Bill Janeway, John Gordon Sinclair and Ian Rankin.
Showcasing the very best of local theatre talent, on stage in Belfast’s word-class theatre spaces were a number of UK and world premieres including Paisley & Me by Belfast-born, Emmy Award-winning writer Ron Hutchinson at The Grand Opera House; Macbeth directed by Lynne Parker at The Lyric, and The Huzzies at The Mac - a collaboration between Tinderbox Theatre Company and award winning playwright Stacey Gregg.
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR AT 50th FESTIVAL
With more family shows than ever before, this 50th Belfast Festival at Queen’s was one that appealed to the next generation of Festival goers -helping to keep the spirit of Festival alive for the next 50 years!
There was theatre, animation, puppet workshops, music theatre and comedy appealing to all age ranges from two upwards and with all the family shows costing less than £10 and many free events there was no excuse not to join the celebrations.
There’s a Monster in My Piano from the Garlic Theatre promised to delight children and adults alike with the off-beat jazzy tale featuring puppets, animation, clowning and a very highly strung monster indeed.
The popular Enchanted Garden returned to Festival - but with a twist. Do you believe in Fairies? Have you seen one? Botanic Gardens at night came to life as the magical fairies gathered in the trees and shrubs.
Riffi Theatre Company presented Camellia and the Rabbit a true story seen through the gauze of an Assam teabag.
Making his debut in Belfast was James Campbell with his genius show Comedy 4 Kids. A stand up show dedicated for children, their parents and anyone who likes comedy without the rude words.
Jason and the Argonauts presented in association with Baboro International Arts Festival for Children has been described as “sly, silly, sophisticated and altogether winning take on an ancient Greek Myth”
A drama for the slightly older ones is Titus,a drama about telling big lies and small truths. A powerful and uplifting one man show telling the story of a 10 year old boy on the edge – literally on the roof of his school. Will he give up or fight?
Commissioned by Scottish Opera, The Elephant Angel was a heart-warming new opera for audiences of all ages. Gareth Williams – Scottish Operas’ composer in residence and acclaimed Belfast Born novelist Bernard MacLaverty drew inspiration from a true story from the time of the Belfast Blitz.
For those young people interested in dance and music local youth theatre group Music Theatre 4 Youth presented a new version of the cult musical Little Shop of Horrors just in time for Halloween and set in the eerie surroundings of May Street Church.
And finally finishing off two weeks of family fun the city centre was awash with over 600 parading skeletons as part of El Dia De Los Muertos - a unique free public event in Belfast City Centre to celebrate 50 festivals.