Belfast International Arts Festival sparkles this Autumn

Posted September 26, 2022 in Festival Features

The countdown is on to Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary multi-artform festival, which returns this Autumn for its milestone 60th edition with compelling drama and dance, experimental genre-busting works, topical talks, the latest literary releases, classical music, folk and soul, independent film, contemporary visual arts and outdoor events.

From October 5 to November 6, over 300 uplifting, joyous and thought-provoking events will be hosted across Belfast.

BIAF22 will open on 5 October with the UK premiere of Dinner With Groucho, a new play by renowned Irish writer Frank McGuinness. The cast features Ian Bartholomew (Geoff Metcalfe, Coronation Street), Ingrid Craigie (Mary, Blood; Rita, You Are Not My Mother) and Greg Hicks (title roles in Coriolanus, Hamlet, and Macbeth for Royal Shakespeare Company).

At the heart of this year’s programme is a special focus on Canada and the Middle East and North Africa. Canadian events include Vivek Shraya’s personal pop odyssey How to Fail as a Popstar (6 & 8 Oct); the European premiere of The Queen and Me (18-19 Oct) from Teiya Kasahara 笠原貞野 (they/them) exploring the many ways that race, gender, and sexuality are policed in the opera industry; and closing the festival, the critically acclaimed Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (4-5 Nov) bringing together two extraordinary artists to examine their intertwined histories, colonial legacies and the changing climate we all face.

UNTITLED 14 KM by Youness Atbane explores how the art world sees and understands contemporary art in its relation with identity, specifically Arab identity, appearing 15 Oct in The MAC. Photographer Agnes Mellon.

The Middle East and North Africa strand includes Another Lover’s Discourse (22-23 Oct), a BIAF commissioned work from Palestinian interdisciplinary artist, Riham Isaac, described by English film director Danny Boyle as ‘a wonderful work, funny and touching and with some real surprises.’ Also making their Irish premiere appearances are Egyptian choreographer, Shaymaa Shoukry (13 Oct), Moroccan live performance and visual artist, Youness Atbane (15 Oct), and a special free outdoor circus and acrobatic visual treat by Moroccan artists in CS Lewis Square (15 Oct) in Belfast’s East. In the Black Box, A Night of Musical Journeys concert (14 Oct) features recently arrived refugees from across the Middle East.

Dance aficionados are in for a treat. BIAF’s first Featured Artist is leading young French choreographer, Noé Soulier, a rising figure in modern choreography, who brings a tremendous double bill (21-22 Oct) of experimental and emotional solo works to the MAC. Leading NI choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty’s largest project to date, Navy Blue (25-26 Oct), makes its Irish premiere and homecoming stop amid its European tour. Jan Martens, who appeared at Dublin Dance Festival in May, makes a welcome return with his new solo Elisabeth Gets Her Way (28-29 Oct), a danced portrait of the Polish-born harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka.

Oona Doherty’s Navy Blue makes its homecoming appearance 25-26 Oct in the MAC. Photographer Ghislain Mirat.

The first in a double bill of headline concerts at the Grand Opera House is the legendary Martin Hayes and his latest project, The Common Ground Ensemble, on Tues 25 October. The following night is hit-maker Paul Carrack, already close to selling out.

Among the wealth of home-grown talent is double Ivor Novello-nominated composer Conor Mitchell’s Propaganda: A New Musical (8 Oct – 5 Nov), playing at the Lyric Theatre; a spooky walk-through theatre experience The Ghost House (14-31 Oct) by Cahoots; an adaptation of Owen Booth’s Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk And The Sheep Have All Jumped The Fences (14-22 Oct) by Big Telly Theatre; and a new collection of Street Art Operas, The Scorched Earth Trilogy (14 Oct) by Dumbworld.

Other notable music events at BIAF22 include Belfast Music Society’s Northern Lights Mini Festival (28-30 Oct); the popular free BBC Radio 3 concert series (19-21 Oct), this year featuring British cellist Natalie Clein and friends; Canadian blues singer songwriter Matt Andersen (9 Oct), and a host of Irish acts such as MELTS (13 Oct), Lisa O’Neill (2 Nov), and Wallis Bird (6 Nov).

The BIAF22 Talks & Ideas strand brings together international and local names to explore thought-provoking topics including state violence, freedom of speech and movement, culture, society, impermanence and the creative possibilities opened up by our digital world. Among the international line-up are Caribbean writers Celeste Mohammed and Jacob Ross, francophone writers GauZ’ and David Foenkinos, joined by a host of UK, Irish and Northern Irish writers including Jonathan Coe, Tish Delaney, Donal Ryan and Charlotte Mendelson. Annual favourites include two new editions of Poetry Jukebox, and the John Hewitt Society’s Birthday Poetry Reading. Look out for special events Conversations on Impermanence, and Larkin in Belfast, marking the poet’s centenary.

The best way to explore Belfast is by foot so check out the popular Cultural Walking Tours led by highly knowledgeable Blue Badge guides. And make sure to visit a few of the amazing visual art exhibitions taking place across the city including punk artist Jamie Reid at Ulster University’s new art gallery.

To Make a Monument, a new project by artist Jan McCullough and Household taking inspiration from archive photographs commissioned in the 1930s that document the machines and wares produced in Belfast. Pancake Machine, University Street Belfast 1930, Courtesy AR Hogg Archive / National Museums NI.

Stay, relax and soak up the atmosphere with luxury hotel group Hastings Hotels, who are BIAF’s official accommodation partner. Check out the special BIAF rate (subject to availability), from £65 pps B&B at The Grand Central and from £50 pps B&B at The Europa Hotel. Use promo code BIAF.

So what are you waiting for? Book online 24/7 at or call Box Office at Visit Belfast Welcome Centre on 0044 28 9024 6609.

BIAF’s principal funder is the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is also supported by Belfast City Council, British Council, the Government of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Tourism Northern Ireland and a range of project funders and sponsors.

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Feature Image: Described by the Guardian as ‘somewhere between cabaret, ceilidh, gig and theatrical poem’, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools takes place 4-5 Nov. Photographer Jeremy Mimnagh.


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