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Belfast International Arts Festival opens today

The largest contemporary festival of Northern Ireland opened today with the premiere of the “imaginative reboot of Shakespeare’s timeless, blood-soaked tale”, Macbeth.
Actor and director Pedro Penim in his upcoming production DOING IT. (Photo credit: Ana Viotti).

Amidst fears of a recession in the arts sector, the 58th annual festival in Belfast will seek to respond to the pandemic with creativity and continue to explore significant “contemporary matters of interest” such as the climate crisis, democracy, representation, gender equality and multi-culturalism. 

Launched today, Belfast International Arts Festival 2020 (BIAF), will feature national and international performers, authors, poets, and broadcasters and run until November 1, 2020.

Like many other cultural events this year, the festival is completely online and offers varied performances of theatre, dance, music, and poetry.

BIAF will also be featuring an extended Talks & Ideas programme and has a suite of developmental initiatives for artists. These range from a digital showcase of local talent for international arts programmers, a series of artist commissions, and the customary Festival Artist in Residence.

Local dance maker Eileen McClory, this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival Artist in Residence, pictured at the Strand Arts Centre.

The festival opened today with the premiere of a new online and interactive theatrical production of Macbeth by the Portstewart-based Big Telly Theatre Company. Opened first to secondary schools, Macbeth will be available to the general public on Zoom from October 14 to October 17, 2020. 

Other highlights of the festival include the leading children’s theatre company Cahoots NI’s The University of Wonder & Imagination that will be presented on two occasions — from October 22- October 25 & October 29- November 1, 2020. The “fun-filled, immersive theatrical experience for families will broadcast from an extensive, purpose-built set”. 

“Importantly, these productions are interactive, not passive. With that comes another layer of complexity in delivering a seamless production that is directed remotely. It also demonstrates how much the storytelling medium has progressed in a relatively short space of time.”

Richard Wakely

Another highlight of the festival, Portuguese theatre maker and performer Pedro Penim’s Doing It will live-stream on Wednesday 21 to Thursday 22, 2020.

Commenting on the festival BIAF director Richard Wakely said, “In recent months, due to the restrictions facing the arts and cultural sectors, theatre companies and indeed artists and innovators from right across the creative industries, have adapted their storytelling efforts to leverage technology and to showcase world-leading theatre remotely.”

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