EastSide Arts Festival set to Inspire Belfast this August

We are getting ready to bring you the EastSide Arts Festival, 11 days of inspiring events from 10th – 21st August. This year the festival programme is packed with 100 events which will be taking place in more than 40 venues across east Belfast as well as in the city centre. 

From music, comedy, movies, theatre, talks, workshops, visual art, exhibitions, poetry, events for the young and old, community events and heritage tours plus over 50 free events

– there really is something to inspire everyone this year.

Among this year’s musical highlights are two headline concerts

which will be staged in the stunning setting of St Patrick’s Church, Ballymacarrett. Be enchanted with the beautiful atmospheric vocals of Anúna or spend an evening in the company of musician and headmaster of rock, Nick Lowe.  Check out east Belfast’s award-winning musician Kaz Hawkins, who will bring her band and entertain with their unique take on the blues, or renowned saxophonist Keith Donald who is bringing his fantastic one-man drama to the Belvoir Players Studio, tracing his life in music. For younger audiences there’s the Ossia Music Rock School followed by a youth gig featuring East Belfast indie rock band, The Late Twos.  The fantastic Woodstock Rhythm & Blues Festival opens proceedings this year, bigger and better than ever, with 6 days of music in venues across the east and city centre, featuring the sounds of artists such as Amanda St John, Anthony Toner, Ken Haddock, Ronnie Greer and Rab McCullough - to name but a few.

The festival will host a wide range of readings, film screenings, poetry, heritage events and lectures. 

Highlights include special tributes to iconic films at Strand Arts Centre from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Big Lebowski and in the spirit of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, a 20th Anniversary screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.  For fans of written and spoken word, treats include a special Page to Stage event with Lucy Caldwell and Rosemary Jenkinson, in association with the Lyric Theatre, an event featuring the best emerging east Belfast poetry talent, a Literary Supper Club at The Lamppost Café and a bus tour of the east with resident poet, Alice McCullough.

EastSide Arts Festival is delighted to feature the 20th Anniversary celebrations of Creative Exchange Artist Studios. Using places and spaces across east Belfast such as the former Engine Room Gallery at Portview Trade Centre, this special occasion will be marked through exhibitions, debates, talks, a billboard project and a special wising tree community art workshop. Other festival visual art highlights include Poolside Watercolour at Templemore Swimming Baths, a sensory dining experience at Framewerk and a series of social arts events at St. Martin’s Church.

Be inspired by the fantastic range of theatrical experiences at this year’s festival.

To mark the Somme anniversary internationally renowned local actors Sam and Joan McCready, along with a brass quintet from the Ulster Orchestra, present Letters From The Front. A selection of poems and letters giving accounts of this harrowing time will be shared with the audience.  Also featured this year is one act play – The Prodger - a story about a Catholic Irishman who fought at the Somme. Sam McCready will also feature in No Surrender by Robert Harbinson.  Veteran writer and actor Sam introduces the work of this gifted Ulster writer who was born in Dee Street, east Belfast.

Looking for some comedy?

Then look no further than Neil Dougan’s Heretics’ and Head the Balls - a funny look back at 500 yrs of Protestant Culture, or 1916 Tim McGarry Goes Over The Top –a brand new stand-up show about the history of 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, with Tim’s usual take on things!

This year’s festival is also jam packed with workshops and community events.

Following on from their hugely successful Belfast Tempest, intercultural theatre company Terra Nova Productions will deliver a Romeo and Juliet themed Shakespeare masterclass over two evenings. Spend a morning creating thread art with Redhead Thread’s craft workshop; seniors can try out some circus skills and young ones can go Claycrazy at Strand Arts Centre. Free community events range from Jazz On A Summers Day at Park Avenue Hotel (free to seniors) as well as a  fantastic array of activities for young and old at Victoria Park. A special touch for this year’s festival will see many of the festival performers provide intimate taster shows at folds, nursing and residential homes throughout east Belfast.

Want to know more about east Belfast? 

Make sure you check out one of the amazing heritage tours from Van Morrison, The First World War, history and architecture of buildings including Strand Arts Centre to a Gaelic Tour of East Belfast. Also, get to know our rising stars. See them at NI Stars production of Wizard of Oz or at EastSide Emerging community showcase, featuring some of east Belfast’s most promising emerging musical talent.



Supporting the launch of EastSide Arts Festival programme for 2016, Permanent Secretary, Leo O’Reilly, said:

“On behalf of the Department for Communities I am pleased to support the EastSide Arts Festival as it launches its exciting festival programme.  The Festival continues to be

a hugely successful event which grows in confidence each year.

East Belfast is an area with strong cultural foundations, and this festival highlights that rich heritage. It also reflects the growing diversity and cosmopolitan nature of this part of the city which can be seen in this very inspiring programme of events and activities.”

Roisin McDonough Chief Executive, from festival principal funder the Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented;

“EastSide Arts continues to open up the arts to people of east Belfast, and beyond. In recent years, EastSide Arts has created something special. Its flagship event, the EastSide Arts Festival – together with the Woodstock R&B festival and the C.S. Lewis Festival - are

giving people an unprecedented opportunity to engage in the arts, culture and the life of this community.

We have the opportunity now to celebrate some of the greatest attributes of this place, namely, the creativity and energy of its people and the Arts Council is proud to lend its support to this important venture.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Brian Kingston added:

“I’m delighted that Belfast City Council is supporting EastSide Arts Festival and Woodstock Rhythm and Blues Festival’s really exciting programmes of events this August. 

Whether you want to be uplifted, inspired or simply entertained – there’s something for you.

The festivals also present a wonderful opportunity to get to know this fascinating part of the city a little better – whether you live here, or have never visited before.”

Rachel Kennedy, EastSide Arts Manager, commented:

“It’s been an amazing few months preparing the programme for this year’s festival and I am pleased to say that we have a truly

inspiring and diverse programme that not only showcases the creativity and talent within east Belfast, but also attracts artists and audiences to come and celebrate this talent with us. 

During the festival people will be inspired to have fun, try something new and importantly see the east of the city as a community that is full of creativity, colour and, above all, one that is on a journey of renewal.  I want to take this opportunity to thank our key funders, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, the Department for Communities and Tourism Northern Ireland for their support as well as our key sponsors, all of whom made the festival possible."

Download the EastSide Arts Festival 2016 Programme here

Book tickets here

Watch the launch video here

Check out the launch images here