THE arts is a really great way of building cultural bridges across the world. Bbeyond, Ireland's oldest performance art organisation, is bringing eight Chinese performance artists over to perform alongside four Bbeyond members from Ireland.

The cultural bridge started when Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan was asked to visit China to perform at a number of festivals there. On his return, plans were put in motion to extend the invitation back to Belfast and with the generous support of the British Council, Culture Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the artists arrive at the end of April to open the festival at 2 Royal Avenue.

Common Groundwork is an exchange between Guyu Action artists, based in Xi’an, including other national Chinese artists and Bbeyond. The purpose of the exchange is to highlight the Common Groundwork existing between artists from different cultures with the potential to open future dialogues and exchanges.  

"This common poetic and philosophic groundwork extends from ancient Taoists and Druidic philosophies, where knowledge with practical wisdom seems to transcend space and time, highlighting being and becoming as more relevant and appropriate for today’s contemporary society," said Brian Patterson, Bbeyond board member. "This common thread of ancient knowledge merges wisdom with love and respect for all things with creativity, reflects a model for living and making art, and is even more important in today’s world, addressing the role of art and artists in society. Performance artists cognisant of living a lived philosophy have the potential to become catalysts for change, something that begins with our individual selves." 

Participant artists are, from China, Chen Qiuge, Li Mengyuan, Xiang Xishi, Su Baiwei, Wang Pan, Mirror Huang, Pan Chennong, Lyu Desheng. Dr Sandra Johnston and Sinead O’Donnell have just returned from Japan to perform alongside Rainer Pagel from Belfast, Wioletta Ratajczak from Dublin and Rebecca Strain from Donegal.

Rebecca is one of Bbeyond's newly-commissioned artists for 2024, an opportunity to be mentored by Bbeyond members and supported financially to make two new works. This will be Rebecca's second performance and she  will be opening the event at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Wednesday, May 1, at 6pm in 2 Royal Avenue. Rebecca runs the Art Link organisation in Donegal.

Meanwhile, Shankill Mission on the Shankill Road has been taken over by the Vault artists and they have been working at transforming the building for the last eighteen months. There are currently 20 artists in there as well as the Belfast Tool Library, a dance studio and a 22-foot boat build as part of Belfast 2024.

They are having an open day on Saturday, May 4 from 2pm to 5pm. If you haven't been on the Shankill for a while this is a good time to have a look.