Belfast International Arts Festival sparkles this autumn

Belfast International Arts Festival Sparkles This Autumn Belfast International Arts Festival Sparkles This Autumn
14 KM by Youness Atbane explores how the art world sees and understands contemporary art in its relation with identity, specifically Arab identity, appearing October 15th in The MAC. Photo: Agnes Mellon.
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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.

BIAF22 will open on October 5th with the UK premiere of Dinner With Groucho, a new play by renowned Irish writer Frank McGuinness. Produced by b*spoke theatre company, the performance promises blistering wit, brilliant buffoonery, and reflections on the ephemeral nature of life.

BIAF's first Featured Artist is the leading young French choreographer Noé Soulier, who brings a double bill of solo works on October 21-22nd. Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger.

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 How to Fail as a Popstar (October 6th and 8th), a reflection on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointment and self-determination; the European premiere of The Queen and Me (October 18th and 19th), an exuberant new opera involving comedy and drama 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 which was recently nominated for five Dora Awards (Toronto’s equivalent to the Tony’s); and closing the festival, the critically acclaimed Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (November 4th and 5th) bringing together two extraordinary artists to examine their intertwined histories, colonial legacies and the changing climate we all face.

A special focus on new contemporary works from the Middle East and North Africa includes Another Lover’s Discourse (October 22nd and 23rd), 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 (October 13th), Moroccan live performance and visual artist, Youness Atbane (October 15th), and a special free outdoor circus and acrobatic visual treat by Moroccan artists in CS Lewis Square (October 15th) in Belfast’s East.

In the Black Box, A Night of Musical Journeys concert (October 14th) 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 (October 21st and 22nd) of experimental and emotional solo works to the MAC.

Leading NI choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty’s largest project to date, Navy Blue (October 25th and 26th), 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 to Belfast with his new solo Elisabeth Gets Her Way (October 28th and 29th), a danced portrait of the Polish-born harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka.


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 Tuesday, October 25th. The following night is hit-maker Paul Carrack, which has limited availability.

Vivek Shraya’s personal pop odyssey ‘How to Fail as a Popstar’, October 6th and 8th in The MAC. Photo: Vanessa Heins

Among the wealth of home-grown talent is double Ivor Novello-nominated composer Conor Mitchell’s Propaganda: A New Musical (October 8th to November 5th), playing at the Lyric Theatre; a spooky walk-through theatre experience The Ghost House (October 14th to 31st) by Cahoots; an adaptation of Owen Booth’s Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk And The Sheep Have All Jumped The Fences (October 14th to 22nd) by Big Telly Theatre; a new collection of Street Art Operas, The Scorched Earth Trilogy (Octoer 14th) by Dumbworld, and in the final weekend, the latest play by Jane Coyle, After Melissa (November 3rd to 5th).

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

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, Charlotte Mendelson, Claire Powell, Sean Connolly, Turtle Bunbury, Benjamin Wood and Ross Raisin.

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.

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

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 and the 141st Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition in the Ulster Museum.

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 double or twin including breakfast at The Grand Central and from £50 pps double or twin including breakfast at The Europa Hotel. Use promo code BIAF.

Oona Doherty’s Navy Blue makes its homecoming appearance October 25th and 26th in the MAC. Photo: Ghislain Mirat.

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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