ArtBeat: Irish at the Edinburgh Fringe, launches at the Lyric and BIAF, and Culture Night cancelled

Notes and musings from the arts scene as the Irish sweep the Edinburgh Fringe and Belfast looks forward to new launches. By Jane Hardy

The brilliant young actor John Travers performs in Rosemary Jenkinson's Billy Boy, wowing critics and audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture by Ross Reaney.

SHOUT "the Northern Irish are coming" in the middle of Princes Street right now, and you'll get applause. For the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, part of the biggest cultural shindig on the globe, has been overrun by shows from here.

It's possibly because Derry Girls put us on everybody's mental map or maybe the fact Fringe director Shona McCarthy is from here.

So... Two Fingers Up (risqué and liberating), Billy Boy (inside the skin of the Twelfth bonfire builders), In the Name of the Son (visited by Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Tinderbox's Birds of Passage in the Half Light.

But what's it like on the Fringe? According to my culture mole, life's frenetic, loads of 'flyering' and sore feet, but fun.

Crowds have been good (50 for Billy Boy's first outing), feedback positive. And half of Belfast is over...


SAD news that Culture Night, which originated in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter in 2009, was cancelled. Maybe the Belfast International Arts Festival should return to having a Fringe which could fill the gap.

Also sad that choir at St Anne's Cathedral, deservedly feted on Radio 3 and elsewhere for their superb work under Matthew Owens, should also be at risk. Apparently funding an issue but what about sponsorship?


LAUNCHES, that is festival and new season launches, are having a bit of a thing right now. My rule is that the quality of the launch doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of what's being unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

Sometimes it does, though, and the Lyric Theatre's enjoyable performance-heavy launch of the first full-fat post-lockdown season a couple of months ago went for it, with good material to match.

Matt Cavan sang a brilliant torch song from Conor Mitchell's new opera Propaganda, Messrs Grimes and McKee blathered on about the beautiful game with new signing Caroline Curran, and the speeches were short.

By contrast, the launch of the important 60th Belfast International Arts Festival in an overheated Ulster Museum the other day was, well, a tad hard going.

There was a good film, a superb short and exciting recital with the magnificent Ruth McGinley on piano. But perhaps understandably, the event was speech heavy.

Yet the programme fizzes with ideas, creativity and sheer excitement. I'd like to review almost everything on offer but highlights in October include a new Frank McGuinness play, Dinner with Groucho, about TS Eliot meeting Mr Marx, wonderful dance performance from Jan Martens (Elisabeth Gets Her Way) and a fascinating sounding theatrical, operatic performance from Teiya Kasahara.