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ArtBeat:

The MAC in Belfast is seeking ideas for how to improve its striking building, which opened 10 years ago. Picture by Neil Harrison.
Jane Hardy

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it steps into July, including The MAC looking to the future, by Jane Hardy

DOES a setting affect the quality of the art or culture consumed within its walls? Put another way, would the Mona Lisa resonate so well in a more modest space outside the Louvre?

Probably, even in a shed, but without the sheer pizzazz. The MAC has been canvassing views on what improvements could be made to its handsome 2012 building, designed by architects Hackett Hall McKnight before it approaches the government's Levelling Up Fund (who knew that existed?) for money to do a bit of superior home improvement.

I love its urban, South Bank-style, with textured walls beloved by concrete heads near the St Anne's Square entrance. Its spaces currently suit visual art and theatre very well.

Its galleries which have welcomed Warhol and Gilbert & George capture what critic Jonathan Meades grandly calls "the void" in which the spectator inserts him or herself. But as chief executive Anne McReynolds notes, a decade on The MAC team need to think how to make the building "more inclusive, more environmentally sustainable".

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IS Glastonbury our Woodstock? I just ask as I spent chunks of last weekend in the sitting room tent relishing the sounds. Maybe the '60s counter-culture festival isn't an apt analogy. Yet the event returning post-lockdown got quite political and had some of the foremost musical talent reaching back to that era.

So as well as Greta Thunberg, we heard the veteran vocals of Paul McCartney (brilliantly un-cheesy), Diana Ross sounding great (although looking a little like an elderly angel), and the Pet Shop Boys. The programming favoured the middle-aged and above but also featured Billie Eilish. There was even a Belfast contribution from visually exciting local electronic DJ duo Bicep.

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SLIM volumes of poetry are having a moment. A member of a film crew working on a script about a poet wanted to buy 20 or so poetry books from our biggest bookshop the other day. And Maureen Boyle launched a new volume, The Last Spring of the World, recently with Arlen House.

Her ungloomy title poem ends: "How could we live without the sense of the earth surging into labour,/ the exhaustion of the season in its growth spurts/in the lengthening days and the big skies that open luminous/and stay blue into the night filled with the sound/of blackbirds amplified in that auditorium of light?/ How could we live without this?"

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AS Ukraine fights for freedom, baritone Yuriy Yurchuk, cast as Gorgio Germont by Northern Ireland Opera in their September production of La Traviata, has been singing to raise awareness of his country's plight.

He's sung the national anthem, Ukraine is Not Yet Lost, near No 10 Downing Street and in several other locations.

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