Out to Lunch, Belfast's bespoke winter festival that reaches the spots others can’t, is back for a twelfth helping of music, comedy, spoken word and literature to warm the winter cockles.
The first festival in Northern Ireland's packed cultural calendar runs from January 6 - 29, offering audiences a chance to blow off the Christmas cobwebs, banish New Year's blues and feast on an array of culinary and cultural delights.
Musical highlights of the programme include James Vincent McMorrow at the Ulster Hall and multiple Grammy-winning Mary Chapin Carpenter at St Anne’s Cathedral. The legendary Fairport Convention return to Belfast for their 50th Anniversary. Meanwhile Mark Kermode’s Dodge Brothers will be twanging and hollering their way into the city's collective hearts and Tom Robinson presents Raphael Doyle, a singer-songwriter with an extraordinary story.
Icelandic band amiina's latest adventure sees them perform a live score alongside a screening of the 1913 silent masterpiece Fantômas. Adrian Sherwood and Pinch will offer up a dark, deep and moody future-dub soundscape at Voodoo while Ulaid and Duke Special bring 'The Belfast Suite' to Out to Lunch.
Post punk heroes RutsDC are set to light up the Black Box, as will rare groove king, DJ Norman Jay MBE with his eclectic sounds, while the venue also hosts a performance from the very special DJ duo of experimental/psychedelic musician Kavus Torabi and one Steve Davis, the most successful professional snooker player of his generation.
Turin Brakes, Mulligan Brothers, Aja Arkestra, Alana and Jarlath Henderson and Barb Jungr singing the songs of Dylan are some of the other exceptional musical treats in a programme glutted with singers and song.
Festival favourite and all-round good egg Martin Stephenson will also bring The Daintees to town to perform their classic Boat to Boliviaalbum in full, 30 years on from its release. Out to Lunch closes with an epic gig with Billy Bragg and Joe Henry 'Shining a Light' in the Ulster Hall.
Away from the music Phil Hammond, NHS doctor, BBC broadcaster, Private Eye journalist and whistle-blowing comic, combines both of his 2016 sell-out four star Edinburgh Fringe shows in one unforgettable evening. Lemn Sissay returns to the festival fold as well to deliver his uniquely wonderful poetry.
Omagh's Kevin McAleer invites audiences to 'Say 'Yes' to Yes' in a life-changing hour of living fully in the moment, with meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, bee venom therapy, psychic flower arranging, singing with dolphins and digital photography.
Inimitable theatre company Ponydance present Idiom, wherein Leonie Pony offers up a lunchtime of insouciant reflection on her longest lasting love affair. Performance poet Mike Garry returns to the city, fresh from a beguiling audiences with his stunning support slot for John Cooper Clarke at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Elsewhere Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poems Death of a Naturalist is brought to life by Painted Bird (in collaboration with artist Neil O’Driscoll) through a dazzling combination of live drawing, animation, audio soundscape and live performance.
Further Ted is an evening of hilarity with three of the funniest Father Ted 'priests': Michael Redmond, Joe Rooney and Patrick McDonnell. A Rabbie Burns Lunch features a bagpiper, toasts, haggis, neeps and tatties, not to mention a bit of poetry and some famous Burns songs by singer songwriter Hugh Jordan.
This January, the festival also invites you to take weekend elevenses with them at Out to Brunch: a series of earlier events to mark the NI Year of Food and Drink. Its impressive brunch menu ranges from Breakfast Stout Club and Early Morning Tales to Mark Kermode talking movies over a muffin.
Festival Director Sean Kelly said: ‘It’s been a surprise and pleasure to watch Out to Lunch grow from a small scale, once-off event in 2006 to a major winter arts festival for the city featuring artists the calibre of Billy Bragg in the Ulster Hall and Mary Chapin Carpenter in St Anne’s Cathedral. At its heart however, the festival’s offer remains unchanged – a quality, diverse and affordable range of arts events in intimate settings that shows the city at its forward-looking best. We hope the people of Belfast, and visitors to the city, will join us getting 2017 off to a creative start and will ‘fill their boots’ with lots of great comedy, theatre and music.'
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 'The Arts Council is delighted to support the 2017 Out to Lunch Festival which is a major attraction for locals and visitors to the city every new year. The unique festival programme offers something for everyone and makes a great contribution to the creative life and economic regeneration of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.'
Early bird tickets for events are now on sale. For full programme information visit www.cqaf.com.