Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival returns to Belfast with more music, comedy, film and spoken word

David Roy takes a look at what’s on offer from this year’s festival

Joel Harkin, this year's The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Artist in Residence
The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is back, with Joel Harkin as this year's Artist in Residence

THE annual Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival will return to Belfast from May 2 to 12 this year, bringing over 100 acts to venues across the city.

The CQAF Marquee at Custom House Square will feature headline performances from Nadine Shah (May 6), Hollie McNish (May 8), Ibibio Sound Machine (May 11), PP Arnold and Bronagh Gallagher (May 4), Muireann Bradley (May 9), Neil Young tribute act Harvest (May 5), Jerry Sadowitz (May 9), Baxter Dury (May 10), Marian Keyes (May 12), The Dodge Brothers (May 5), Mick Flannery (May 3) and Janey Godley (May 12).

The 2024 music programme also includes live performances from Robert Finley (May 2, Black Box), Snapped Ankles (May 3, Black Box), Conchúr White (May 5, Rosemary St Church), TVAM (May 8, Ulster Sports Club), Kimmie Rhodes (May 10, Black Box), Lau (May 3, Rosemary St Church), C Duncan (May 6, Ulster Sports Club), Oisin Leech (May 7, Deer’s Head), Tom Robinson (May 2, Deer’s Head), Lemoncello (May 9, Ulster Sports Club), Zoe Conway and John McIntyre (May 8, Ulster Sports Club), Katherine Priddy (Deer’s Head, May 11), Jane Weaver (May 12, Ulster Sports Club) and The Handsome Family (May 4, Black Box), plus DJ sets from Mr Scruff (May 5, Black Box), Lack of Afro (May 4, Deer’s Head), Justin Robertson (May 5, Deer’s Head) and DJ Format (May 10, Ulster Sports Club).

This year’s CQAF Artist in Residence will be Co Donegal singer-songwriter Joel Harkin, whose 2020 album Never Happy was shortlisted for the NI Music Prize.

Among the highlights of this year’s literary programme are award-winning Irish author Sinéad Gleeson (May 3, Ulster Sports Club), Sara Pascoe talking about her new novel, Weirdo (May 11, Black Box), and BBC DJ and author Annie McManus in conversation about a life of music, books and broadcasting (May 9, Lecture Theatre 1, UU Belfast Campus).

Read more:

Daniel Rachel will be in conversation about his new book Too Much Too Young, which tells the 2 Tone Records story (May 12, Black Box Green Room), Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music fame will be talking about his acclaimed new memoir Revólución to Roxy (May 12, Black Box), and former Auteurs leader turned solo artist and musical memoirist extraordinaire Luke Haines returns to Belfast to discuss his latest book, Freaks Out! Weirdos, Misfits and Deviants – The Rise and Fall of Righteous Rock ‘n’ Roll (May 9, Deer’s Head)

The CQAF film programme includes a 50th anniversary screening of Young Frankenstein at St Patrick’s Church (May 7) and a screening of Birdsong, a new documentary about ornithologist Sean Ronayne’s attempt to record every single bird in Ireland (May 4, Avenue Cinema).

CQAF will also be presenting the Irish premiere of ‘lost’ Billy Connolly Irish tour documentary Big Banana Feet from 1976, recently found and restored in 4K (May 10/11, Avenue Cinema)

Comedian Daniel Kitson will be performing a brand-new show Collaborator: A Work in Progress, where the audience are part of the script (May 4/5, Black Box)

Theatre and performance-wise, there will be productions from Big Telly with The Worst Café in the World (May 4-6, 49 Royal Avenue) and Tinderbox Theatre Co’s production of I’ve Always Liked the Name Marcus (May 1-5, The MAC).

Jack Docherty brings his hit Edinburgh Fringe one man show David Bowie and Me to Belfast (May 6, Black Box), while the folks behind the award-winning Mustard, Hildegard Ryan and Eva O’Connor, return with Chicken (May 2, Ulster Sports Club).

Frankie Thompson will perform the acclaimed CAttS (May 7, Ulster Sports Club) and Will Govan will bring us his one man show on the life of Oscar Wilde, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes (May 8, Deer’s Head).

This year’s CQAF visual arts programme includes the local artist showcase Mother Tongue at The MAC (April 26 - July 1), new audio visual work from Éabha Campbell at Catalyst Arts (May 2 - 12), the two site exhibition Smoke from ‘guerrilla practitioners’ Shiro Masayamas and Leopold Kessler (May 2-18, 11 Rosemary St) and Bua an Chultúir/Victory of Culture, an exhibition of sculpture from Farhad O’Neill (May 2-31, 2 Royal Ave).

The Hit the North Street Art Festival also returns with its annual showcase of wall-based visuals around the town, and there are also walking tours including the entertainingly macabre Black Belfast Horror and True Crime Walking Tour (May 5 & 12) and the spooky yet informative Cilfton St Cemetery Tour (May 2 & 4).

Festival director Sean Kelly says he is delighted at this year’s line-up: “We always try and make increasingly little go a long way, and this year I hope we’ve achieved that in spades.

“I think there’s an abundance and diversity of great stuff in the 24th festival programme – it’s a celebration of the best of local and international talent.

“I hate the old cliché something for everyone, but sometimes it just happens to be true. Come and join us in May and find out for yourself.”

Full festival programme available at cqaf.com


Hole: Live Through This, A Celebration - May 2, Oh Yeah Centre
Local bands will be performing songs from Hole's 1994 album Live Through This at this year's CQAF
Local bands will be performing songs from Hole's 1994 album at this year's CQAF
Rock out like it’s 1994 as top local turns Sister Ghost, Susi Pagel and Aqua Tofana offer their takes on tunes from Hole’s classic second album, which was released just two weeks after Hole leader Courtney Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead at the couple’s Seattle home.

The Dodge Brothers, Dan Donnelly - May 5, CQAF Marquee

Film critic Mark Kermode (right) in musical mode with his band The Dodge Brothers
Film critic Mark Kermode (right) in musical mode with his band
Brace yourselves for rockabilly/skiffley blues favourites The Dodge Brothers’ biggest Belfast date to, er, date: expect an evening of full-tilt, bull fiddle-propelled primitive rock and roll fun, with added value for money in the form of a quality opening act in former Watercress man, ex-Wonder Stuffer and current Leveller, Dan Donnelly.

Luke Haines: Freaks Out! Weirdos, Misfits and Deviants – The Rise and Fall of Righteous Rock ‘n’ Roll - May 9, Deer’s Head

Rock and roll maverick Luke Haines has a new box-set out today
The author and rock 'n' roll maverick is Belfast-bound
Luke Haines is a man who knows a thing or three about both making and worshipping righteous rock and roll, which is quite lucky as he’s just written a whole book on the subject and is now taking the good word on the road.