The Belfast International Arts Festival gets underway this Friday, October 6 and this year’s programme is jam-packed.

Featuring 191 events, from 14 countries, taking place over 23 days, the festival is supported by National Lottery funding through, principal funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Matched only by its commitment to excellence is a commitment to access and so once again the Festival features a range of high-quality events that are free or very affordable.

Here’s our pick of ten of the best events you won’t want to miss:

Motosikai from Finland, Irish premiere, Saturday 7 October, free

Presented by Crying Out Loud, this is a totally free unique, outdoor circus show that is suitable for all ages and takes place at C.S Lewis Square on Sunday 8 October with a surprise pop-up performance on Saturday 7 October. www.belfastinternationalartsfestival.com

The Poetry Jukebox at the Crescent Arts Centre, opens Thursday 12 October, free

A new and funky landmark is brought to Belfast for the first time. People can come and listen to the most eclectic, contemporary on-street sounds installations featuring the finest poetry from the island of Ireland and other places. www.belfastinternationalartsfestival.com

Fashion and Freedom, Ulster University, York Street, 9-28 October, free

Fashion exhibition and film inspired by women during the first world war feat Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda, J,JS Lee, Sadie Williams and more. Co-commissioned by 14-18 Now and Manchester Art Gallery, supported by the British Fashion Council and Ulster University.

Seamus Heaney: Words and Music, The Duncairn Centre for Arts, Tuesday 10 October, £6/£4

This very special programme of readings and Heaney-related music will feature new work, ‘The Helping Hand’ from Belfast composer, Neil Martin, inspired by lines from Station Island, as well as works by Irish composers,Sean O’Riada and Rachel Holstead. Also performing is an ensemble of Ulster Orchestra musicians and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Glenn Patterson, who will present a sequence of readings.

The Tempest: Ireland Memory Identity, Carlisle Memorial Church, 10-28 October, free

An exhibition of paintings, painted constructions and sculpture by one of Ireland’s leading international artists, Hughie O’Donoghue, will take place at the special surroundings of Carlisle Memorial Church. This exhibition draws on the artist’s own experience and connections, people and places that he knew of knew of

BBC Radio 3 presents The Four Season in Song, The MAC, 20-21 October, free, apply for tickets

Featuring internationally acclaimed pianist, Joseph Middleton and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists. Visit www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours to apply for free tickets.

Poppies Weeping Window sculpture by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, Ulster Museum, 14 October – 2 December, free

Brought to you by the Belfast International Arts Festival and National Museums, this visual arts installation outside the Ulster Museum, is free for people from Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland to experience this unique, powerful and deeply moving sculpture. There is also a series of free talks about the work.

Gardens Speak, 12-13 Shaftsbury Square, free (suitable for ages 14+), 11-22 October, £5, booking essential

From the Lebanon and UK, Garden Speak is a deeply moving, interactive sound installation at Shaftsbury Square containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. Each narrative has been carefully constructed by the friends and families of the deceased to retell their stories.

136th Royal Ulster Academy of Art Annual Exhibition, Ulster Museum, 6 October – 7 January, free

This annual exhibition features over 300 works by emerging and established artists with something to inspire all ages and interests. A series of talks, tours and workshops is scheduled to complement the exhibition.

403 Belfast Print Workshop 40th anniversary exhibition, Crescent Arts Centre, 8-29 October, free

An exhibition showcasing local artists’ print works. 40 years, 40 prints, 40 Printmakers, is a testament to BPW’s printmaking facilities, showcasing the legacy and spirit of a thriving network of artists.



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