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Ready to Connect With Eastside Arts Festival This Summer?

Helping to launch this year’s EastSide Arts Festival taking place live, online and outdoors 5th-15th August were, from left: Musician Neil Martin, actor John Travers, actor Rachael McCabe and festival director Rachel Kennedy.

Everyone is invited to connect with EastSide Arts Festival, 5th-15th August, this summer.  Featuring 100+ artists across more than 80 events taking place both in-person and online, enjoy the festival from the comfort of home, outdoors in person, or at a range of east Belfast locations as part of a socially distanced audience.

Supported by Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, funders Belfast City Council and Belfast Harbour, sponsors Translink, Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park, Hewitt & Gilpin and Future Screens NI, the festival is packed full of unique, exciting, events that will allow festival goers to connect with friends and family, performers and facilitators in a safe and accessible way.

The EastSide Arts Festival is brought to you by the team at EastSide Arts, an initiative by EastSide Partnership which is celebrating 25 years of delivering regeneration projects across east Belfast this year.

With 80+ events across music, theatre, film, books & spoken word, walks & tours, circus & cabaret, comedy and events for children and families, there will be lots to do this August in east Belfast. This year the festival has introduced a Digital Festival Pass which provides access to all of the online events, to watch live or On Demand for the duration of the festival.

Actor John Travers, Liam Hannaway from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, musician Neil Martin actor Rachael McCabe and festival director Rachel Kennedy.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the many events taking place:

  • Anthony Toner new album launch: Celebrating the return of live music, the festival opens with an in-person performance by Anthony Toner. Featuring a tribute to the historic Templemore Baths andwritten during lockdown, Anthony’s new album Six Inches of Water commissioned by EastSide Partnership includes ten songs inspired by east Belfast. Anthony and his band will also perform a range of songs from his popular back catalogue.
  • Mixed Bill Comedy Night: Presenting comedy talent from across Northern Ireland for an evening of laughs at Vault Artist Studios.  In preparation for his sold out Ulster Hall shows, Micky Bartlett (Blame Game, Deckchair and Yumz) headlines a show with sets from rising star Robbie McShane (as heard on the General Banter Podcast) and the hilarious Sara Jade Davidson; hosted by Garden Comedy Club creator, Vittorio Angelone.
  • Greenway Celebrations: Get down to Victoria Park, part of the Connswater Community Greenway, for a host of activities including sports, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts, street performances, food stalls, music, environmental activities and much more #GreenwayCelebrations.
  • West Ocean String Quartet: With world-wide acclaim, their music is literally out of this world, as their first three albums were played aboard the International Space Station and clocked up around 40 million miles. This live special event will be held in the atmospheric surroundings of St. Patrick’s Church and will launch the new album, Atlantic Edge. It also marks the first concert by the Quartet in over 18 months, and their first concert in Belfast in over a decade.
  • Billy Boy:  Written by Rosemary Jenkinson, directed by Matt Farris, commissioned and produced by EastSide Arts. Belfast actor John Travers shines in this high energy new play by Rosemary Jenkinson, inspired by the real-life stories of young bonfire builders in east Belfast.  Think you know this story?  Come along to Strand Arts Centre and find out what you’re missing.
  • Mary Coughlan Sings Billie Holiday: Four in-person events will take place at the Stormont Hotel, the highlight of which is one of Ireland’s greatest jazz singers, Mary Coughlan, who will celebrate the life and music of Billie Holiday, in the style and period of her time.
  • Literary events: A host of well-known names from Northern Ireland and beyond  will feature across a wide range of online literature and spoken word events live streamed from Accidental Theatre. Jan Carson, Colin Hassard, Abby Oliviera, Andrea Montgomery, Susan McKay, Andrew Cunning, Sarah Moss, Louise Nealon and writers from Hedgehog Press feature – to name but a few.
  • Live at C.S. Lewis Square: For the final weekend of the festival there will be 4 nights of live outdoor music at C.S. Lewis Square; the line-up includes Gareth Dunlop and friends; Celtic Soul celebrating the 50th anniversary of Moondance by Van Morrison (rescheduled from last year); Electronica with The Night Institute DJs and a tribute to Gary Moore on the 10th anniversary of his death. This will be a highlight of the festival with limited capacity.
  • Dragtastic Wrap Party: Lady Portia D’Monte and friends will close the 2021 EastSide Arts Festival with glitz, glam and excitement in-person at Vault Artist Studios. Expect sassy banter, sketches, competitions and general mayhem as this ostentatious line-up will take festival-goers through some of their favourite movies and TV shows and get toes tapping.
Actor John Travers, Liam Hannaway from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, musician Neil Martin actor Rachael McCabe and festival director Rachel Kennedy.
Liam Hannaway, Chair, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support EastSide Arts Festival through The National Lottery and Emergency Funding from the Department for Communities.  The theme of the 2021 Festival couldn’t be more apt. ‘Connection’ has been at the heart of the arts this year, as artists and organisations have sought new ways to engage with audiences during lockdown.  We are delighted to see EastSide Arts putting on such a strong festival, this year of all years. Lockdown has, if anything, sharpened the public’s appetite for the arts, and I’m confident that this programme will engage audiences and give us a creative lift through these uncertain times.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said:

“We’re delighted to support the EastSide Arts Festival, one of our Cultural Multi-Annual Grant recipients. Belfast is proud of its thriving festival scene and these events play a vital role in our 10 year cultural strategy, A City Imagining.  I’m impressed at how this year’s festival is combining online activity with some in-person events as restrictions start to ease following a challenging period for our local arts sector. The EastSide Arts Festival promises to bring an incredible range of activities to celebrate and showcase local talent and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish the organisers and participating artists the best of luck.”  

Director of the EastSide Arts Festival, Rachel Kennedy added:

“We are delighted to invite everyone to join us at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival where our theme is connection. Whether you join us live in-person, or online we hope the festival gives you the much-anticipated opportunity to connect with the performers, artists and speakers that inspire you, and with each other as we celebrate the return of live events. This year’s programme is packed with unique, interesting, funny and engaging artists and events. The pandemic continues to present us with challenges, however we have created a safe, accessible festival which can be enjoyed at home or in-person, where everyone’s wellbeing is our main priority. A huge thanks to our Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, for their support, and the vital support of all of the festival funders and sponsors who make the festival what it is.”

For the full festival programme and ticket information visit here. Follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ESAFest21.

The Arts

Spectacular Ogham Grove Opens Tonight In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarters Writers’ Square will tonight (September 17) be transformed into a spectacular installation from the creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.

From 6pm tonight through until Sunday evening visitors can experience an interactive celebration of the ancient druidic language, with massive representations of trees, sounds and lighting weaving a path of learning about the language and the chance to win prizes.

Ogham Grove replaces the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events.

Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken said visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.

Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.

Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

The brains behind the concept include creative lead Gawain Morrison, artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.

Gawain Morrison said that the concept of The Ogham Grove “draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree alphabet which dives deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined”. 

This year, as well as experiencing The Ogham Grove itself, visitors will be able to take part in an accompanying interactive experience that will lead them through the Cathedral Quarter, and also take them on a journey of personal discovery.

According to Gawain the immersive nature inspired trail and competition will mean visitors can take something special away from the experience.

“For somebody who will be coming to this, the several points of access means it is going to be a very experiential and sensory experience,” he explained. 

“I hope that as visitors walk around whether it’s in the day or night, that they will take something away from it.”

Across the Cathedral Quarter area, there will be five zones each representing one of the five families of the Ogham alphabet.

To be eligible to win a prize, participants must find and scan a QR code found on one of the trail’s bespoke wooden plaques and take note of the lines of poetry displayed.

Prizes to be won include vouchers for restaurants, gift tokens to purchase your own pieces of art and tickets to shows coming up in the Cathedral Quarter and will be announced at the end of the Culture Night weekend.

This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.

To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to or follow #CNB21 on social media

Issued by Excalibur Press on behalf of CNB Presents: The Ogham Grove 

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The Arts

£5m Fund to Retain Skills in the Creative Sector

A £5million fund to prevent the loss of the talent and expertise of individuals and freelancers working in the creative sector has been launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme, which opens at noon today, will provide a grant of up to £2,000 per individual eligible application including DJs, artists, performers, sound and lighting technicians, writers, events managers and many other professionals who have been impacted as a result of the public health restrictions on the creative sector.

There is evidence that the creative sectors rely heavily on self-employed and freelance individuals and that many have already left the sectors because of the pandemic, with those remaining facing jobs vulnerability and unaffordable costs relating to re-establishing their creative practice.

Minister Hargey said: “I have listened to the recommendations of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce, and I have also engaged with the sector. As a result I am today launching a support scheme to provide grants to individuals to encourage them to remain in the creative arts sector.

“The culture, languages, arts and heritage sectors have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 restrictions as they rely heavily on people’s ability to get together which is why the Executive has provided £13million in 2021/2022 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

“There is a risk that self-employed and freelance individuals may be forced to leave the creative sectors as a result of the pandemic. As the sectors rely heavily on individuals, this could destabilise the sector and the benefits it delivers including social, economic and wellbeing. This new £5m funding scheme aims to prevent loss of sectoral skills for self-employed and freelance individuals and safeguard the sector for the future.

“This fund will help with costs of reactivating, maintaining and enhancing their creative trade, vocation or profession. It is designed to prevent individuals, and their talent and expertise, from leaving the creative economy; and help them re-establish their contribution to the important benefits these sectors deliver.”

Welcoming the funding, chair of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce Rotha Johnston said:  “Freelancers and the self-employed are critical to the recovery and sustainability of the creative and cultural sectors as a result of the impacts of Covid-19. Many have been deprived the opportunity to use their skills, perform or practice their art in the last 18 months. The Taskforce is of the unanimous view that support for individuals is essential to protect the viability of the sectors going forward. The Taskforce’s findings and recommendations have been developed following extensive engagement with people from across the sectors and our conclusion is that this public investment in culture, arts and heritage will deliver significant benefits to individuals, society and the economy in the short, medium and long term”.

The fund, co-designed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) with the Department for Communities, will be delivered by the Arts Council. For information on how to apply including eligibility criteria please visit

D/deaf and disabled artists will be supported via a separate award via ACNI to the University of Atypical who regularly support this particular cohort, to ensure that artists with particular needs are appropriately supported through the application process.

The scheme is open until 12 noon, 6 October, 2021.

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