On Thursday, Outburst Arts and the Belfast Ensemble in partnership with the Ulster Orchestra presented the world premiere of 'Mass We Believe' in the former Belfast Telegraph print works.

Outburst Queer Arts Festival has declared it is reclaiming the workd queer and, indeed, the organisers have commissioned some great work in the past. Their website crashed after the opening night ironically with the Outburst festival audience wanting to go to Mass.

Dr Philip Hammond in a musical introduction declared: “to the infidel, the unbeliever, religious rites and rituals are merely theatrical ceremonies designed to bring the faithful together in a practice of mutual association, To the faithful, however, these conventions are overlaid with meaningful beliefs, reaching well beyond the mere physical into the realms of spirituality.”

Composer Conor Mitchell likes to work towards a vision of “total theatre through contemporary performance". In this instance that means the audience being invited to walk through the velvet curtains and find a square platform with the Ulster Orchestra set up.

You were invited to move around the square as you wished during the performance and certainly it did add to the experience, being close to the percussion, or harp. The Mass was divided into several sections, each one generating a surround of visuals from seven different visual artists around the world including Belfast’s own Conor McIvor. Some spotlighted visuals on small chapel-like squares in the walls, others wrapped the audience in high walls of colour and form.  

Opera singers sang notes and words and at one point a chorus in the crowd took off their masks to sing, then put them back on and melted into the crowd like a flash mob.

There is an essay in the programme on queer spirituality and cultural resistance by Jo Clifford and a poem by Pádraig Ó Tuama. The production was thoughtful and spectacular.

Respectful and transcendent it showed some of the world-class talent that Belfast has to offer in a meaningful way and hopefully will tour to spotlight the contemporary reality of culture in Belfast.

I bumped into some of the Array collective in the Bel Tel building and noted the confident glow of artists who have had some of their talent recognised. Finger crossed for them: the winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on 1 December.


When Grayson Perry was announced last year for the Waterfront, my first thought was someone has said, “I can make a show out of you”. The transvestite potter first burst to wider fame via his nomination then winning of the Turner prize.

I saw him deliver the Reith Lecture in Derry during the City of Culture celebrations and when he sticks to art that’s very enjoyable. He said of his show: “think Tedx panto”. And with a few costume changes he was not far wrong.

The audience was asked to click on a QR code for a voting poll interaction. Some of the first questions were lazily developed for an English audience and concerned Labour and Tories.

Grayson Perry is beginning to inhabit the 'national treasure' category and his virtual art club was a life-saver for some during lockdown. Nevertheless, although he says he will be back, I will not.