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A year in the arts 2016

Wednesday 21st December 2016 at 3pm 1254 Comments

One of highlights of the 2016 Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, Taylor MAC's performances in Belfast were a standout for several of our officers looking back over the past 12 months. Image: One of highlights of the 2016 Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, Taylor MAC's performances in Belfast were a standout for several of our officers looking back over the past 12 months.

As we hurtle at a break-neck speed towards the end of yet another year, it would be remiss of us if we didn’t take the opportunity to look back at some of our highlights of the past 12 months. 

Our artists and arts organisations have continued to produce work of significant quality, have engaged audiences of all ages, from all backgrounds and walks of life and have helped add shape to the Northern Ireland of today.

Several of our officers have taken time out from their schedules to cast their minds back to reflect upon just some of the work that has stood out for them in 2016.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive

“The Taylor Mac show as part of the Belfast international Festival was outstanding. Subversively funny, raw, poignant, challenging all preconceptions about gender and sexuality over the centuries, it was a riot of fun, music, colour, great singing and visually arresting costumes. Like many people, I can be put off by the ‘obligation’ to participate as an audience member. On this occasion, I had no hesitation. My only regret was missing his second, different show. Will someone bring him back, please...”

Deirdre Robb, Arts Development Officer, Visual Arts

‘The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the Andre Serrano ‘Torture’ exhibition it was a truly breath taking and thought provoking body of work.  Next for me was Golden Thread Gallery’s ‘Video Quartet’ (2002), an excellent presentation of Christian Marclay’s work. Another highlight  for me was Belfast Exposed’s exhibition by world-renowned photographer, Martin Parr, ‘Welcome to Belfast’, which had audiences queuing to get in on the opening night and this coupled with their emerging artist programme in the Futures Gallery always makes it worthwhile visit. 

The painting show of the year must go to Ian Cumberland who had a solo exhibition Millennium Court in Portadown. 

Last but not least this year’s recipients of Arts Council Artists Career Enhancement Scheme award artists John Rainey and Miguel Martin exhibitions were of an excellent standard.’

Gilly Campbell, Arts Development Officer, Drama and Dance

‘It’s been a bumper packed year of drama and dance and just some of the highlights for me include the announcement of Jimmy McAleavey as one of the Arts Council’s 2016 Major individual Awardees; this award represented significant recognition of Jimmy for his impressive contribution to the canon of theatre in Northern Ireland.

Maiden Voyage premiered their brilliant dance production for young audiences ‘Pause & Effect’, choreographed by Eleesha Drennan at the MAC in March as part of the 2016 Belfast Children’s Festival. 

Pintsized Theatre Company brought its surprise theatre performance to Belfast audiences in August. I caught the show at Conway Mill, where the damp, eerie and evocative space of the Drying Room provided an excellent backdrop for the play After the End by Dennis Kelly.

In October Conor McPherson made a welcome return to the Lyric Theatre with a new translation of The Nest by Franz Xaver Kroetz. This new production was co-produced by the Lyric Theatre & the Young Vic London. I was gripped by this play, every aspect of the production transported audiences to a world of moral questions, materialism, environmentalism and nappies… This was a slick production, with quality acting and direction.’

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Festivals and Venues

‘I have to say one of my biggest highlights of 2016 was the unique and wonderfully flamboyant Taylor Mac at The Mac as part of Belfast International Arts Festival.  It was a very thought provoking show on many levels, celebrating music and culture that spanned the years before, during and after World War I.  His costumes were opulent and dazzling, he had the audience play fighting and laughing with each other and before it was finished my previously unknown neighbour knew all my favourite dance moves and my age! Definitely a night to remember.

Another local highlight in Mid Ulster was the September G Sessions at Glasgowbury, where emerging musicians from both north and south, Orchid Collective and Michael Mormecha took to the Cornstore stage and played their hearts out to an intimate and much appreciative audience.  The G Sessions are definitely gigs to watch out for in showcasing young music talent of the future.

Maria McAlister, Arts Development Officer, Traditional Arts

‘The year got off to a great start with cutting edge trio ‘Lau’ performing in January at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts. The programme of concerts that followed in the venue were of exceptional standard, and for me, We Banjo 3 are another firm favourite.

The fourth Traditional Music Forum took place 26 Feb 2016 in Culturlann Ui Chanain, Derry/Londonderry. The event was supported by 43 organisations, artists, promoters, local authorities and educational bodies.

In May, we celebrated Armagh Pipers Club 50th anniversary which was followed by the Ulster Orchestras 50th, Andersonstown Traditional & Contemporary Music School 25th and Belfast Trad 25th birthdays. My two final favourite moments both took place in the MAC; fiddler Cathal Hayden’s album launch and contemporary songwriter Malojian’s album launch and documentary.’

Lizzie Devlin, Arts Development Officer, Community Arts

Highlights of projects and events in Community Arts during 2016 included Artsekta’s Connections Concert at the Harbour Commissioners office with Neil Martin, Intercultural musicians and choirs of Holy Cross Boys Primary School, Ardoyne and Campbell College Junior School, East Belfast. The evening included a beautiful song about the Lagan and its symbolism as a river of hope composed by Neil. The Connections project continues into 2017 with a concert planned for the Lyric in March.

Terra Nova Productions Arrivals 2, ‘Mi Mundo’ a story of love and survival of an intercultural couple living in NI was a highly engaging immersive theatre experience .The production will be re-staged in 2017 across NI.

Other highlights included Community Arts Partnership’s annual Trash Fashion event at Ulster Museum showcasing the very original and innovative designs from communities of all ages across NI. Taking place during Belfast Fashion week it was definitely the go-to event that week.

The year closed with the Outburst Festival celebrating its 10th anniversary year with a high quality packed programme of international and local queer arts, a personal highlight was the International Symposium on Queer Arts at the Black Box.

Grainne McCann, Communications Manager

‘My personal highlight was seeing the very talented Taylor Mac in all his sparkling, fizzy, witty, rainbow loveliness! He was very at home in The MAC and his cast and band really were superb, pushing us to new levels of audience interaction – hugging complete strangers on stage and loving every minute! Marvellous and memorable are the adjectives to use, well done Belfast International Arts Festival for bringing us this New York gem.’

It should be noted that for purposes of this blog, the above listing is not exhaustive but is representative of the highlights selected the officers. 


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