Thursday 23 July 2015


Festival to go ahead, renamed as Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival

A new independent company has been established to secure the future of the Belfast Festival and to deliver the 2015 edition.

This new chapter in the Festival’s history sees itself renamed as the “Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival” with a diverse and eclectic programme of events which will run from Friday 9th October to Sunday 1st November.

Making the announcement, Festival Director Richard Wakely said, “I am delighted to be able to confirm that the Belfast Festival is very much alive and kicking and that the show must go on!  With the generous support of our public and private sector funders and partners, we have come together to launch a new international festival that reflects both the changing city around us and the continuing evolution of creative practice from around the world”.

The Festival’s ambition is to work with a range of partners across the city to create a genuinely civic event of arts and ideas of international stature and appeal. 

Richard continued, “The Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will feature artists and performers from across the globe, bringing everything Belfast audiences have come to expect in recent years from the Festival and more: a world class programme of theatre, performance art, moving image, visual art, dance and music from folk, to contemporary and classical with opportunities for audiences to directly engage and participate in the creative arts.”

“This is a festival about togetherness, uniting people from all walks of life to experience and celebrate the best in world class arts and culture. At its core are a set of values that reflect the importance of global connectivity; access and participation; contemporary and inter-disciplinary arts practice and community.

“Building on the success of Festival outreach and participatory events in the last few years, the 2015 programme will see events, installations and performances taking place in an array of venues across the city, some traditional and some a little more surprising, which will be revealed in due course.

“The newly redesigned Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will appeal to the much more diverse and multi-cultural community which makes up modern day Northern Ireland, whilst promoting all that is good about our country to the wider world.”

Richard Wakely also thanked the principal funder, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which played a critical role in recent months securing the future of the Festival. 

Roisin McDonough, Arts Council Chief Executive said, “A truly international arts festival for the whole of Belfast remains an important objective for the Arts Council. As the principal public funder of the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, we are delighted that the imagination and energy of the former artistic director Richard Wakely is at work on the 2015 programme and I have no doubt this year’s festival will be as creative, inspirational and thought provoking as ever. 

“I welcome warmly the founding Board members who bring with them an enviable set of skills. I think we can now look forward to the journey ahead; one that will take the Festival to its destination as a dynamic company, delivering a stand-out programme of events, that will bring great arts from home and abroad within the reach of everyone.”

Stephen Cruise, Head of Branch Banking, Private & SFA (NI), Ulster Bank said: “We’re very pleased to play our part in supporting the new look Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival. I’m sure that we’ll see an exciting and vibrant celebration of local and international talent. As a bank we’re continually looking for new ways to better serve our customers, so I look forward to seeing the refreshed and reinvigorated programme for this year’s Festival.”

Other key Festival funders are Tourism NI, Belfast City Council, and the British Council, all of which continue to play a vital and positive role in helping to support and shape the future of the Festival.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson, stated: “Belfast City Council is delighted to continue its support of the new look Belfast International Arts Festival.  I know that they have some very exciting plans for this year’s programme, and the Council looks forward to working with Richard Wakely and his team to deliver another world-class cultural event for our city.”

David Alderdice, Director of British Council Northern Ireland said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Belfast Festival. The new Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival offers a world class programme that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

“This year's festival will bring the best of the world of the arts to Northern Ireland and provide our local artists with global connections for the future.  The Festival is a clear and strong signal of Belfast's international ambitions and steadily growing confidence as a world city.”

Chief Executive of Tourism NI John McGrillen said; “Tourism NI is delighted to support the continuation of a major international arts festival for Belfast.  Events are firmly established within our tourism fabric, adding to the positive perception and profile of our destination, and have been recognised as having an important role in contributing to the economy. The new Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will convey a hugely positive message to our visitors and provide local colour and atmosphere through a wide range of activity, while increasing visitor spend. I commend the dedication and hard work of Richard and his team and look forward to a bright future for the Festival.”

The full Festival Programme is due to be revealed in early September.  Some highlights unveiled today are:

This year’s Festival Artist in Residence is Amanda Coogan, one of the most exciting contemporary visual artists practicing in the arena of performance art today. Her work is challenging, provocative and always visually stimulating. In recent years she has performed and exhibited at The Venice Biennale, Liverpool Biennial, New York and The Irish Museum of Modern Art. Amanda will be researching and developing a new work to premiere at the 2016 Festival.

Hallo: Martin Zimmermann is a pioneer of the nouveau cirque movement that has swept Europe in the last couple of decades with its blend of acrobatic feats, theatre, dance and comedy. The visual flair and sharp wit of his latest work, Hallo, can be seen in a unique UK and Irish premiere at The MAC.

The Kitchen: A show about the healing power of cooking, The Kitchen is a sumptuous, multi-sensory spectacle from India of arresting sights, smells and sounds, culminating in something for your tastebuds too, at the Grand Opera House.

Corners: a series of multi-disciplinary and site specific artist residencies, installations and projects that will take place across Belfast in unusual locations and venues. Designed and driven by cultural organisations at the fringes of Europe and linking cities and artists across the continent including Stockholm, Donostia / San Sebastián, Newcastle upon Tyne, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Rijeka, Belgrade, Gdańsk, Bari and of course Belfast. This project is co-presented with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

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Notes to Editor

For media information contact Vicki Caddy at ASG PR on 02890 802000 or

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