From West Africa to West Belfast: Belfast International Arts Festival Announces its Return

Belfast International Arts Festival returns for its 62nd edition this autumn

Belfast International Arts Festival returns for its 62nd edition this autumn with a jam-packed programme of global artists converging across the city.

The festival returns from 16th October – 20th November and ahead of its full programme reveal later this summer has announced a series of 2024 festival highlights across the visual arts, music, dance, and theatre.

Festival Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Richard Wakely, says:

“Belfast International Arts Festival is a window to the world. This year’s programme is hugely diverse, which we believe really reflects a contemporary and cosmopolitan Belfast. It’s a real opportunity to discover something new; to uncover remarkable artistic talent on our very doorstep and in equal measure experience – perhaps for the very first time – the extraordinary talents of international artists across a broad range of arts practice. In particular, festival audiences will have the opportunity of joining us on a musical journey from Mali to Memphis with wonderful concerts at both the Mandela Hall and Grand Opera House. We will be presenting events across every corner of the city this autumn and look forward to revealing our full programme very soon.”

Performing at Mandela Hall on 28th October, all the way from West Africa, will be Les Amazones d’Afrique, a collective of talented female musicians renowned for their unique blend of traditional African rhythms and contemporary sounds. The arts meet advocacy with the group’s blend of vibrant energy, intricate harmonies, and compelling lyrics that address issues of gender equality and social justice. The band’s two previous albums have garnered considerable acclaim and their latest record, Musow Danse, released earlier this year, has been described as ‘one of the great pan-African consciousness LPs in modern history’ by Rolling Stone.

On 29th October, at the Grand Opera House, blues legends Paul Jones and Dave Kelly, and masterful Irish singer-songwriter Freddie White, present an evening of Blues & Ballads. Founders and lead vocalists of The Blues Band, Paul Jones and Dave Kelly are two of the UK’s most revered and respected blues musicians and have played alongside the greats, including Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Part of the fabric of Ireland’s music scene, Freddie White, who toured alongside Eric Clapton, has captivated audiences with an eclectic repertoire and the magnetic energy of his live shows for decades.

Following a hugely successful off-Broadway run, The Vanishing Elephant by Charles Way for Cahoots lands at the Grand Opera House from 31st October – 2nd November. The family spectacle is an epic tale of friendship and adventure that features extraordinary on-stage puppetry.

Showing throughout the festival at the Ulster Museum is Threads of Empowerment: Conflict Textiles’ International Journey. The exhibition, which opens to the public from 21st June, displays 29 textiles from individuals and communities across the world who have experienced violence and conflict, human rights violations, poverty, oppression, and environmental issues. The artworks highlight how important a resource artistic expression can be as each piece is based on personal and poignant testimonies.

Belfast International Arts Festival is also a presenting partner of Belfast 2024, Belfast City Council’s ambitious programme that is offering people the opportunity to celebrate the city in new and exciting ways, and will showcase three captivating events across Belfast in August and October.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Micky Murray, says:

“We’re always proud to support Belfast International Arts Festival, but this year is particularly special for Belfast City Council as the festival is presenting three of our signature Belfast 2024 events, Touch, Hear, Feel, ROOTS, and North Star, which will all encourage us to view and engage with our city – and our people, place, and planet – in new, exciting and very memorable ways.’

Touch, Hear, Feel, an ambitious new project by dancer/visual artist and current festival Artist in Residence Helen Hall invites us to reimagine the way we experience art. In Touch, Hear, Feel, art is felt, heard, and understood in ways that transcend the traditional visual realm. The installation will create a unique opportunity for audiences to physically engage with the work, breaking down the barrier between observer and art. Accompanying the sensory experience, an audio narrative will feature the voices of blind and partially sighted people providing insights into their experiences of touch. The installation space will then transform into the stage for a new dance piece choreographed by Helen. Touch, Hear, Feel, which is produced by the festival, will open to the public at 39 Corporation St later this summer.

ROOTS, by former festival Artist in Residence Eileen McClory together with Off The Rails Dance Company and the Black Mountain community, is a unique performance that blends dance, poetry, storytelling, and active participation. In this event, art and nature intertwine to rewrite the narrative of Belfast’s public spaces as audiences watch, listen, move, touch, and connect in an engaging journey to transform a shared but contested space at Belfast’s ‘million brick’ peace wall that divides the Springmartin and Springfield communities. ROOTS takes place in the specially designed garden at Black Mountain Shared Space from 10th – 18th August.

From 24th – 25th October at the Telegraph Building, Solab, a new collective led by Kwame Daniels, presents North Star, an ambitious live show that will feature music and literature, all deeply rooted in Black music and cultures. The immersive live performance is inspired by the historic speech given by orator, writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Belfast in 1845 and is led by Grammy Award winner, Kaidi Tatham, award-winning poet, Nandi Jola, rising stars Leo Miyagee and Winnie Ama, alongside a host of talent including nearly 100 pupils from four schools across Belfast. The show will also feature special commissions by acclaimed actor Colin Salmon and Ivor Novello winner Hannah Peel.

The full programme for this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival will be announced on 13th August. For more information, visit belfastinternationalartsfestival.com.

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