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Queen's University Of Belfast

festivals

History

In the beginning there was an enterprising young undergraduate, Michael Emmerson, who started running a small event based on the campus of Queen's Universit, Belfast.

The university, its students and the Belfast public saw that it was good and the infant Belfast Festival at Queen's was born.

Ten years later and the Festival was ten times bigger and had already attracted such names as Dizzy Gillespie, Ravi Shankar, Laurence Olivier and Jimi Hendrix!

The dusty archives lurking in the caverns of the Festival House basement read like a who's who of prominent artists during the latter half of the 20th century.

In the 1970s the Festival was a cultural oasis in a landscape dominated by political upheaval and it was to act as a catalyst for the city's future cultural renaissance.

By the early ’80s under the directorship of Michael Barnes, a former History lecturer, the Festival had expanded into a two week long arts extravaganza across the whole of the city and was hosting everything from Moscow State Ballet and the Royal Shakespeare Company to Dexy's Midnight Runners and the Flying Pickets!

Billy Connolly and Rowan Atkinson had visited the Festival before they were famous and were welcomed back, while Michael Palin vowed never to take his one-man show anywhere else on earth such was his love of the event.

One of the Festival's enduring key roles is as an advocate of local work, giving Belfast's arts practitioners a unique opportunity to present their work on an international platform.

Eminent figures Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, James Galway, Van Morrison, Stewart Parker and Marie Jones were welcomed early in their careers and recent productions by local theatre companies such as Tinderbox, Ransom, Prime Cut and Kabosh have thrived during the Festival.

More recently, the Festival has welcomed Robert Wilson, Alfred Brendel, Merce Cunningham, Philip Glass, Nick Cave, Ennio Morricone (right) and Yoko Ono as its guests.

Belfast Festival Anthology 

As part of the Festival 50 celebrations, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are taking this opportunity to look back at the many stories which have made Belfast Festival at Queen's so important to the life of the city. The project will be centred around this website, which will be compendium of memories of the last 50 Festivals. You can upload your own memories onto the website of a gig that changed your life, or one that just gave you a very inspiring night out.