The Belfast International Arts Festival is back.

Running from 9 October – 1 November, this year boasts a fantastic line-up, including some absolutely free events across the city centre.

Whilst the likes of Bell X1 already sold out, if you act fast there’s plenty more tickets left to some spectacular shows. Here’s our top list of what to look out for this year.

1. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Grand Opera House, Tuesday 13 Oct – Sat 17 October, 7.30pm (Tues – Sat) Matinees 2.30pm


Based on the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a thrilling new stage play from the National Theatre which won seven Olivier Awards in 2013 and more recently, five Tony Awards.

Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

2. Dawson Stelfox – Sold Out

Queen’s University, Elmwood Avenue 7.30pm, Tues 20 Oct, Free!


If you were able to get tickets for this sell-out event, then well done you is all we can say!

This fascinating event will tell the story of Dawson Stelfox – who in 1993 became the first person from the island of Ireland to climb Mount Everest and the first from Britain or Ireland to climb the North ridge, scene of Mallory and Irvine’s disappearance in 1924.

This year’s earthquake devastated large areas of Nepal and some of the INET buildings were badly damaged. Through the Nepal Ireland Society and INET the mountaineering community has been fund raising for immediate relief, and are now focused on the rebuilding programme.
Dawson will present an illustrated talk on the harsh realities of living and working in these high and remote mountain areas, many days walk from the nearest roadhead, in complex and geologically unstable terrain. He will also talk about the exploration of challenging mountains in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet.

3. Invisible Barriers: Moving Images

Various locations aross North Belfast, Fri 9 Oct – Sun 11 Oct


We can’t wait for the Drive In Movies and outdoor screenings featuring moving-image artworks, mainstream cinema and community-authored collaborations!

The artistic programme includes films by Stefanos Tsivopoulos (Greece); Jesse Presley Jones (Ireland); Anna Konik (Poland); Jeremy Deller (UK) and Francis Alÿs (Mexico).
To find out more about the project go to

4. The Night Alive

The Lyric Theatre, Fri 9 Oct  – Sat 31 Oct, Tues – Sat 7:45pm / Sat & Sun 2:30pm

the night alive

Set in Dublin, The Night Alive tells the story of Tommy – a middle-aged man, just about getting by. He’s renting a run-down room in his uncle Maurice’s house, keeping his ex-wife and kids at arm’s length and rolling from one get-rich-quick scheme to the other with his pal Doc.

Then one night he comes to the aid of Aimee, who’s not had it easy herself, struggling through life the only way she knows how. Their past won’t let go easily. But together there’s a glimmer of hope that they could make something more of their lives. Something extraordinary. Perhaps…

5. 134th Annual Exhibition

Ulster Museum, Open Tues – Sun, 10am – 5pm (Closed Mon!), Free!


 This popular annual exhibition showcases original works across the disciplines of the visual arts (including sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and video) from emerging artists to the biggest names in Irish art.

This year’s exhibiting artists include Ursula Burke, Azahara Cerezo, Colin Davidson RUA, Rita Duffy RUA, Mark Francis, Mercedes Helnwein, Ronnie Hughes, Alice Maher, Peter Richards ARUA, Paul Seawright RUA, Mark Shields RUA, Hannah Starkey, Jennifer Trouton RUA and Colin Watson ARUA.

A wide range of educational activities are scheduled throughout the exhibition aimed at schools, families, art enthusiasts and the wider general public.

6. The Animotion Show

Belfast City Hall, Sunday 18 Oct, Free! (But booking is essential)



The live chemistry between renowned virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and acclaimed Russian visual artist Maria Rud, delivers a sound and image fusion that is truly unforgettable. Maria’s iconic images are beamed live, as she paints them, onto the walls of the Belfast City Hall by projection artist Ross Ashton.

The audience enjoy not just beautiful paintings on this stunning building but also the process of painting itself as they witness each brush stroke and developing form as images materialise and transform to be then swept away and replaced by something new. The effect is breath-taking.

7. Le Poids De La Peau / Trash!

Belfast City Hall & Orangefield Park,  Le Poids da La Peau 1pm & 3pm / Trash! 2pm & 4pm, Sat 10 October – Sun 11, Free!
A double bill of bizarre international family fun, never before seen in the UK or Ireland…
Waste collection is a dirty job, but the Jashgawronsky Brothers have turned it into a fantastic adventure in their new show Trash! The three Armenian brothers perform an actual concert with their weird instruments: the funnel trumpet, the wet violin, the double broom, the pump aerophone, the buckelele and many others.
In Le Poids de la Peau, tightrope artist, Sébastien Le Guen attempts to defy gravity and maintain his balance on the unique and iconic ‘Girafon’, which see-saws and rotates horizontally through 360° and all to the contemporary electro/acoustic sounds of his collaborator, Jérôme Hoffmann.

8. Chivalry Is Dead

Upstairs at the Mac, Wed 14 & Thurs 15 Oct 8pm, £12/£10


When two men take the Y out of irony, all they are left with is iron.

Alex Deutinger and Alexander Gottfarb, in full body armour, question the prevalence of knightly valour and blood-spattered fantasy in TV and gaming.

Deprived of damsels in distress, enemies to defeat, swords, horses or holy grails, how can they keep up their medieval ideas of morals and manliness now?
Must chivalry come to a clanking halt?

9. Belfast Open Studios

Various locations across Belfast 1pm – 5, Friday 23 Oct – Sat 24 Oct, Free!

visual arts

Just how does an artist get from an idea to a finished exhibition?

Belfast Open Studios, hosted by Visual Arts Ireland, is an invitation to the public to come and see how artists work and to take a glimpse into the creative processes.
Sponsored by local artisan tea makers Suki Tea, Belfast Open Studios events offer a warm welcome to all with a cup of Belfast Brew on arrival before they take a relaxed and informative stroll around the various studios, each day from 1pm – 5pm. Click here  for a full list of events.

10. Nine Nights

Custom House Square – Belfast City Hall, Sat 24, 7.00pm, Free!


Nine Nights is a captivating and spectacular piece of outdoor theatre telling the story of a land ruled by fear and torn apart by war.

Inspired by Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light, expect an evening of stunning music, dance, drumming, procession and fireworks as over 1,000 community participants, dancers and musicians light up the streets of Belfast in one of the largest pieces of outdoor theatre the city has ever seen.

11. Cara Dillon

Lyric Theatre 7.45pm, Sun 1 Nov, £25

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Closing the spectacular festival is the stunning voice of Cara Dillon.

If you don’t know her already, you’re in for a treat. If you are already amongst her legions of admirers around the world, you know you have something special in store.

The extraordinary Irish singer makes music that transcends genres and crosses barriers. She has won every folk award going, but confesses to being no purist, making music that reaches beyond the constraints and limitations of tradition. “To me, you can go anywhere with every song. The melody and message is at the forefront of everything I do. I don’t really care where the song came from, how old it is, and who did it first. It’s whether it strikes a note in my heart…”

A Thousand Hearts, Cara Dillon’s fifth solo album, is another small masterpiece of song and emotion, ethereal and radiant, beautifully honed and perfectly true.

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