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Under threat Belfast Festival to go ahead

Dancers from rehearsing a piece which premiered at last year's Belfast Festival at Queen's. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE under-threat Belfast Festival is to go ahead this year, despite fears it would be scrapped after a key funder pulled out.

The festival, formerly known as the Belfast Festival at Queen's, was put in jeopardy after the university decided to withdraw its funding in March, citing budget concerns.

The annual festival, which began as a small event on the university's campus, has been running for 52 years and has played host to performers including Jimi Hendrix, Billy Connolly, Dizzy Gillespie, Kylie Minogue and Rowan Atkinson.

The event has now been renamed as the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival and will run from Friday October 9 to Sunday November 1.

It is being funded by the bank, as well as the north's Arts Council, which is the main public funder, Tourism NI, Belfast City Council, and the British Council.

Festival Director Richard Wakely said the new festival will reflect "both the changing city around us and the continuing evolution of creative practice from around the world".

He added: "The Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will feature artists and performers from across the globe, bringing everything Belfast audiences have come to expect in recent years from the festival and more: a world class programme of theatre, performance art, moving image, visual art, dance and music from folk, to contemporary and classical with opportunities for audiences to directly engage and participate in the creative arts".

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, said it wants a "truly international arts festival for the whole of Belfast".

"I think we can now look forward to the journey ahead; one that will take the festival to its destination as a dynamic company, delivering a stand-out programme of events, that will bring great arts from home and abroad within the reach of everyone," she said.

The full festival programme is to be announced in early September. Some of the events will include circus piece Hallo by artist Martin Zimmermann and The Kitchen, a show about "the healing power of cooking".

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