Belfast International Arts Festival | Preview

Belfast International Arts Festival | Preview

11 – 29 October 2016

By Gemma McSherry

Just as the summer comes to an end and the nights begin to shorten, Belfast comes alive as another festival season takes over. Whilst summer is awash with quirky outdoor musical festivals around the province, autumn brings the best of national and international art to town.

With a schedule including Community Relations & Cultural Awareness Week, Culture Night, Monthly Late Night Art and the Belfast International Arts Festival, it makes the absence of lazy evenings at a BBQ or summer walks on the beach much easier to deal with. The highlight of festival season has to be the Belfast International Arts Festival (BIAF) offering 100+ events from the 11 to 29 October. BIAF is an opportunity to witness a diverse range of dance, visual art, theatre, performance as well as vibrant debates and talks. This year’s festival has a special focus on the migration crisis.

The Suppliant Women on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 October at the GOH is a play about fifty women leaving everything behind to board a boat in North Africa to flee across the Mediterranean. A production by the Actors Touring Company and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, it is sure to be a stand out offering of theatre at the festival and one that will open up conversation and provoke thought around an all too relevant topic.

In visual art, Maybe She’s Born with It is an exhibition at the Naughton Gallery in Queen’s University running from 13 October until the end of the festival.  Maybe She’s Born with It explores what it means to be a woman and a Muslim in 21st Century Britain. It was a winner of the Saatchi Gallery’s ‘4 New Sensations’ award and promises to be a compelling and engaging exhibit.

If talks and lectures are your thing, the festival offers an incredibly diverse range of content to whet the appetite of any eager attendees. Negroland a talk by Margo Jefferson on 29 October in the Linen Hall Library brings Margo’s critically acclaimed memoir of the same name to life through the discussion of privilege, civil rights and feminism.

The festival really does offer something for everyone and is an incredible opportunity to see some work that would otherwise bypass Belfast, so it is worth taking advantage of whilst it’s here. With ticket prices rarely exceeding £10, it’s an affordable and welcoming environment in which the arts are appreciated, respected and shared through and by like-minded people in a city so well renowned for artistic individuality.

For the full programme and tickets visit or pick up one of their packed programmes from the tourism office or from venues dotted around the city.


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