Guy Garvey, Rob Delaney, Marc Almond and Grandmaster Flash among the picks of CQAF 2016

The 17th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival kicks off in Belfast later this month, with an amazing array of music, comedy, theatre, literature and all-round entertainment on the menu, writes Brian Campbell

Guy Garvey plays Belfast on May 1

THE MUSIC strand of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is always its strongest suit and the festival has an amazing array of talent on the bill this year.

On opening night – Thursday April 28 – it’ll be hard to choose between New York wordsmith (and comic book artist) Jeffrey Lewis, alt-country act Richmond Fontaine and seasoned English rockers The Zombies.

The closing night of the festival (May 8), meanwhile, offers up hip-hop hero Grandmaster Flash and also the homegrown supergroup that is Northern Lights (Ben Glover, Malojian & Matt McGinn) at The Black Box.

More 'northern highlights’ in the programme are Ciaran Lavery (launching his album Let Bad In), Donegal Master Fiddlers, Hannah McPhillimy, Amanda St John and festival artist-in-residence Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton).

Other musical must-sees on the bill include Elbow frontman and solo star Guy Garvey, Birds of Chicago, Marc Almond, Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap), The Afro Celt Sound System, Underhill Rose, Sam Lee, Shonen Knife and Courtney Pine.

Making a welcome return to Belfast are the brilliant Unthanks, whose gig in St George’s Church on High Street on May 7 could well be the gig of the festival.

CQAF is now in its 17th year, while one of its key venues – The Black Box – is celebrating its 10th birthday. And who better to book for the comedy strand of CQAF than the man who put on the very first show in The Black Box in 2006 – the ever-entertaining John Shuttleworth, who will hopefully include hits I Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now and Two Margarines in his set.

US comic and star of Channel 4 show Catastrophe Rob Delaney is perhaps the pick of the bunch in terms of comedy, while The Comedians Comedy Club in The Black Box on May 1 should be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Highlights of the stage/literature events include Broken Bone Bathtub, Flann’s Yer Only Man, Alice Milligan: A Girl of Genius, The Pass, Shakespeare’s Women, Tony Walsh and Jo Baker.

A screening of the Tom Waits concert film Big Time (1988) on May 2 is also worth checking out. Maybe the CQAF will bring over the great man himself for their big 20th programme in 2019 – when Waits will be in his landmark 70th year.

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival runs in Belfast from April 28 to May 8 (


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