Night Music at The MAC

I’ve been a little bit boring recently. There, I’ve said it. I could put it down to lousy winter weather, too much work or too little money, but frankly I’ve been choosing the sofa over the socialising lately, thus having significantly less to contribute to a blog which essentially revolves around getting out and about.

A temporary glitch, I’m sure.

However, do not lose all faith in me yet. A few weeks ago I attended an evening of “Night Music”, a monthly event advertised as formal music in an informal setting, which was simply wonderful. I wanted to share it with you as soon as I arrived home, but life got in the way as it has a habit of doing, so I’m making a point of telling you now so you can go and enjoy the next performance in early March!

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As many of you are I’m sure aware, recent budget cuts have hit Northern Ireland’s Arts scene arguably the hardest of all, which is a real shame as it’s something which a lot of people, myself included, are very proud of and keen to support. The trending campaign #13pforthearts at the end of last year highlighted the extremity of the situation, with the sector being allocated just 13p per head of population per week. Shameful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that in times of need we must prioritise on fundamental cornerstones such as healthcare and education, but I can’t help thinking there could have been a more fair decision reached in terms of sustaining our country’s arts and culture sector?

That being said, I was very glad to pick up a flyer for Night Music at the MAC (one of my favourite art venues in Belfast), the first of a set of monthly events for some of our most talented musicians to showcase their musical style. February’s musicians were called The Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble (quite apt considering the weather outside) and are a contemporary music group from Belfast. I was too consumed in the moment to record them on the night, but for those of you who are interested, here’s a short clip of what they do best…

Growing up I played the piano and the flute and so I know only too well the level of skill and determination required to perform as flawlessly as this group did. The evening pulled in a healthy crowd and it was obvious to see the rest of the room appreciated the 90 minute performance as much as I did. With a glass of red wine in hand, it was the perfect way to spend a rainy Wednesday evening in February.

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It feels quite fitting that I should leave you with the words of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But first, definitely check out Night Music’s next event on Wednesday 4th March, and say hello if you see me there! More details can be found by following @Night_Music_  on Twitter!

“Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light,

And listen to the music of the night.”

Kathy x

The Tale of the Ancient Lights: Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

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When I hear the word ‘festival’ my eyes light up like a kid at Christmas. At 24, I’m already a bit of a festival veteran; music, books, art, beer, food, you name it, I’ll most likely be in the thick of it. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been really looking forward to this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival which opened on Thursday night and continues on to Sunday 11th May. Starting small and now in its 15th year, the festival has grown from strength to strength and judging by this year’s line up is set to be bigger and better than ever. From music to comedy to literature and theatre, it provides a cultural platform in Belfast for local, global and future talent to dazzle in the city’s bustling yet most intimate spaces.

In an unusual stroke of luck, I managed to score some last minute tickets last night to one of CQAF’s events through entering a competition on their Facebook page. (Thanks for the free entry, guys!)

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The Tale of the Ancient Lights is described as a 45 minute performance piece by RIUCHI which “combines circus, dance and magic on a modern journey through an ancient Asian legend”. I know, you’re thinking what on earth does that mean? Well, so was I to be honest, but as it was being held in one of my favourite new spaces in Belfast (The MAC) and I had free tickets and it was a bank holiday weekend, intrigue got the better of me and I thought, why not?! 

No photography was allowed during the performance, but here’s a short taster of what I experienced:

RUICHI’s performance was completely as advertised: magical, mesmerizing and inspiring, as evident from the sea of smiling faces flooding out of the dark room after the show.  It’s difficult to explain what exactly I saw, but it seemed that the point of the performance was more about inspiring feelings and imagination than about ‘entertaining’. The clever use of fluid movement, lights and sound (rather than words) worked impressively to tell this mythical story through a less conventional medium, and had the entire audience captivated from beginning to end. Being an English graduate, using perception and attempting to read between the lines is somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to me, and the performance sent my imagination into delightful overdrive, providing a lot of interesting conversation for some post-show drinks in The Dirty Onion… which then led on to some beers and beats in The Parlour Bar.

I’m planning to attend some more events at this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (see here for the list of events/venues) but for now here’s to another random yet crazy good evening back in Belfast – and to Mondays off work!

Lots of Love, K.

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The Arts Scene is Buzzing in Belfast!

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On Thursday night I arranged to meet up with a friend after work. Despite having spent three years completing my degree at Queen’s University, Belfast my knowledge of the city is largely confined to the student-swarmed “Botanic Bubble” in the south end of the city where the cheapest eats and grungiest bars are to be found, complete with their signature mix of O’Neills ambassadors and angel-headed hipsters. But, a few years out of uni and a set of food standards later, and these places just aren’t quite as exciting as they once seemed. Oh my god, it’s true… I’m AGING.

     In an attempt to re-live our youth (as older people sometimes do) we had somewhat excitedly agreed to check out a 90’s grunge night in a new bar and catch up over the searing riffs of Heart-Shaped Box. However, in a more cultural turn of events, we discovered that Thursday March 6 was the return to Belfast of Late Night Art; a monthly event where galleries across the city remain open until 9pm to showcase new exhibitions and artist talks. Change of plans, sorry Kurt.

      Belfast, and its arts scene in particular, has definitely evolved in the few years I have been away, and it’s wonderful to see such support for local artists, from both the city and its residents. I was genuinely taken aback by the range of conceptual art and exhibition spaces on offer as we meandered through the cobbled Cathedral Quarter. From Kara Walker’s harrowing graphite sketches of black American history in the MAC, to Sarah Maple’s contemporary bold take on feminism with pieces such as ‘Snow White the Scientist’ in the Golden Thread Gallery, the night was visually stimulating from beginning to end (potentially enhanced by a few complimentary glasses of  wine!).

 Below are a few of my favourite pieces from the night. First is Kara Walker’s installation which unmercifully portrays the violence and suffering endured during the American Civil War. Her work is haunting, and at times gruesome, but undeniably provokes a startling reaction, which is one of art’s core societal values, in my opinion.

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Secondly, was this particular piece from Sarah Maple‘s “God is a Feminist” exhibition. “INACTION IS A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION” read whilst staring in the harsh light at one’s own reflection in a beveled mirror is an unsettling experience, but an extremely inspirational one too.

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With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8 a lot of the work on show this month has been dedicated to the projection and interpretation of feminism and celebrating female artists. This got our group into discussions about what it means to be a feminist in today’s society. The topic undoubtedly deserves much more than a solitary sentence in a blog post, but to summarize we concluded that although only one quarter of Americans identify themselves as feminists (according to last year’s Economist poll), this alarmingly low figure is ultimately more resultant of the  extreme connotations of the word, rather than a discredit to equality between the sexes. If the term “feminism” was simply perceived as political, social and economic equality between men and women I would like to believe the statistics would be extremely different.

      With an increased focus on arts and culture in recent years through the opening of the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) in 2012 and numerous other projects, it’s fantastic to see Belfast  diversifying and supporting its own local talent, as well as providing a platform for other artists to showcase their work to an influential and eager Northern Irish audience. The buzz around Late Night Art was infectious and provided me with a lot of timely inspiration and encouragement.

      When properly appreciated, conceptual art has the power to evoke powerful feelings and stimulating conversations between everyone from strangers to close friends; it has the power to inspire, to teach and to communicate what sometimes can’t be accurately expressed through words.

       Belfast needs art, and art needs Belfast. Whilst our country’s turbulent history cannot, nor ever should be forgotten, it is beautiful to watch, encourage and participate as we evolve into a new and forward-thinking city full of cultural diversity and inspiration around every corner.

You can find out more about Late Night Art and the galleries participating at www.belfastgalleries.com, and keep up with what’s happening in NI’s art world on Twitter at @ArtsCouncilNI.

Lots of love, K.