Art Beat: Belfast Photo Festival, Eurovision, La Traviata and Belfast Book Festival

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it looks forward to the summer, by Jane Hardy

Paradise Fire CA by Tabitha Soren, from her project Surface Tension, part of the upcoming Belfast Photo Festival.
Jane Hardy

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it looks forward to the summer, by Jane Hardy


BORDERS are in the news. Infringe them and culturally you get intensity, freedom, maybe art. This year's Belfast Photo Festival ( that opens on June 2 presents the world through a new perspective, via lenses that are often ignored. 'The Verge' is the overarching theme.

We'll get to see some magnificent images that shift our view of reality a bit. Surface Tension, for example, by Tabitha Soren, comes from the Against the Image show at the Ulster Museum.

It challenges notions of truthfulness in a digital age of (mis)information and this view of a burning corner of an American city recalls images of the Troubles.

But what do we really see? Clare Gormley, the festival head of programmes, says: "It's one of a series of Surface Tension photographs, and this one was taken during a Californian wildfire on an analogue camera, then adjusted on iPad. It's about the idea of mass imagery and manipulation."

Eurovision delivered the only result it possibly could with Ukraine in first place. And it had a message: 32-year-old Essex-born hippy Sam Ryder, the British singer, has described Eurovision as a "celebration of inclusivity, peace and love".

The fat lady has taken up residence in the wings, with some great opera heading our way. Notably La Traviata from Northern Ireland Opera playing at the Grand Opera House in September.

Violetta Valéry, the courtesan heroine of this tragic love story, will be played by Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg. Her CV includes work at the Royal Opera House and across Europe.

Based on Alexandre Dumas's La Dame aux Camélias, the complex plot is full of betrayal, class, untimely death (consumption, of course). I find the big operas almost unbearably moving and look forward to the aria Addio, del Passato. Verdi observed: "When I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds... and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear..." which means that's ok, I'm supposed to.

Anticipating Belfast's Book Festival, one tempting event is Writing Belfast on June 10 at the Crescent Arts Centre with Lucy Caldwell, Nandi Jola and Padraig Regan. Poet and storyteller Jola says her writing is "something between Belfast and Africa" and has a new collection out from Doire Press, Home is Neither Here Nor There. Her writing is often topical. In Ink, Jola writes about achieving citizen status, repeating the line "The letter came today, ten years late." and ending "I am here."

With everyone talking Protocol, let's turn to the Irish Border's former Twitter incarnation for enlightenment. The Border revealed in 2016, "I've got into the sea", and just before the PM's visit said it was on annual leave, adding: "Don't do anything stupid while I'm away". If only...

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