This year’s Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will kick off on October11.
Built around three central festival themes of Bending the Bard (Shakespeare 400 years on), World in Motion (migration and refuge) and Nineteen Sixteen (legacy of the war years), there’s plenty of colour, history, culture, arts and entertainment in store in the packed programme.
Two of the Festival highlights showcased at the launch were the first appearance in Northern Ireland of New York performance artist, Taylor Mac. An actor, playwright, singer and song-writer, Mac’s show combines all the glitz and dazzle of the campest cabaret, along with daring political and social commentary and audience participation. He is funny, articulate, outspoken and highly entertaining. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has been jointly commissioned by the Belfast Festival and 14-18 NOW, with a range of international partners, and will explore gender, authority, class, and war, incorporating Mac’s own take on Irish history. Expect music, glitter, feathers and stunning costumes (by Machine Dazzle), interaction with the audience and a rollercoaster of emotions, ending with the start of a love affair with the act described as “The Critical Darling of the New York scene” (New York Times). It is anticipated that Taylor Mac’s shows will be the talk of the town, so they are not-to-be-missed.
Also showcased at the launch, with a taster performance of her new piece, Run to the Rock, was critically acclaimed Irish performance artist (and last year’s Festival Artist in Residence), Amanda Coogan. This live art work, specially commissioned by the Festival with the support of the British Council’s Shakespeare Reworked programme, combines choreographed movements inspired by translations of Shakespeare into British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) with live multi-media messaging, projected images and sound, along with a stunning set and costumes.
Festival Director Richard Wakely said, “The Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival is back with a bang for 2016, with 19 days of world class artists and events. Taylor Mac and Amanda Coogan are leading artists of our time, showcasing unique new productions and exploring timeless themes. And with a richly packed programme of theatre, dance and music of all kinds, we are continuing to respond to Belfast’s hunger for truly world class arts and cultural entertainment. We’re putting our fantastic venues such as the MAC and the Grand Opera House to good use and we’re embracing other venues right across the city, with many free events to entice younger audiences and families to enjoy the magic of the arts in our public spaces.”
Richard Donnan, Ulster Bank’s Head of Northern Ireland, said: “The programme for the 2016 Ulster Bank International Arts Festival includes a world-class array of talent to enrich the city and provide an outstanding opportunity for local people to engage with the arts. Looking at the programme makes me very proud of the work we at Ulster Bank have done together with Richard Wakely and the whole team behind the festival. Over the last 10 years, I have been inspired by the way it has evolved, and I have been delighted that Ulster Bank’s sponsorship has enabled the attraction of global talent, ranging from Charlotte Rampling to Bettye LaVette and Taylor Mac. I very much look forward to this year being another high-calibre celebration of the arts and a fitting and impressive platform to showcase this truly important event.”