In its most electric line-up in half a century, over 100 innovators in music, drama, art, literature, dance and comedy will gather to join Belfast’s biggest ever birthday party from 19 October to 4 November.
‘Festival 50’ is the climax of a major year of landmark events in Northern Ireland’s ni2012 Your Time, Our Place programme, which has included major festivals, the opening of the iconic Titanic Belfast building (the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction) and a spectacular new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.
Every autumn, Belfast is gripped with two weeks of arts fever. In a city of festivals, this is the big one, as venues citywide provide unique opportunities to see world greats performing in surprising and intimate settings.
Cuba’s Grammy Award winning Buena Vista Social Club and fellow Grammy winners, the Ladysmith Black Mambazo choir, from South Africa will be bringing their distinctive harmonies.
Belfast legend and musical heavyweight Van Morrison will play a couple of intimate ‘supper concerts’ at The Europa Hotel and ‘The Folk Club’ – a hit in past Festival years – will also reunite for the 50th celebrations. .
Acclaimed soprano Lesley Garrett will make magic alongside virtuosos clarinettist Emma Johnson in the inspiring surroundings of the Clonard Monastery, which will also host a rare performance by Polyphony, described as “possibly the best small choir in the world” by USA magazine Encore.
In addition to the strong musical programme on offer, an eclectic mix of events means that there is something to suit all interests and all ages.
Festival 50 is featuring its largest line up of family oriented shows in many years including the popular Enchanted Garden, a spectacular artistic illumination at Belfast’s Botanical Gardens and Comedy 4 Kids, a stand up comedy show for families and children, a festival first this year.
The festival also welcomes back its founder Michael Emerson, whose original vision to celebrate Belfast’s creative spirit has shaped the cultural landscape over five eventful decades, growing from a small campus based event to a globally renowned event.
In honour of Michael Emerson, who now lives in Mexico, a Mexican flavour and carnival atmosphere will run throughout, with performances from Michael’s wife, flautist Elena Duran and the extraordinary group, Pate de Fua.
“Our vision this year is to celebrate the past but also to deliver new experiences encouraging new audiences to ‘get in on the act’. We want to engage, excite, inspire and even provoke audiences with an eclectic mix of performances. It will be a great celebration of culture for everyone to be part of,” says Festival Director Shan McAnena.
Festival 50 is a fitting finale to ni2012; the perfect cultural centrepiece for a journey through the streetscapes and the landscapes inspiring the new Northern Ireland.
It will open with a fanfare of 50 trumpets introducing a new work by local composer Michael Alcorn.