LAST last year I made some Christmas face masks, never thinking I would get two years' wear out of them — but we have all got used to change and taking opportunities for entertainment when available if we are able, never knowing when the opportunity might come around again or a last minute change might happen.
I have every sympathy for people running box offices but patience is a virtue. The Out to Lunch festival runs January 8 to 30. It started in a tent on Writers' Square 17 years ago. Now they have moved inside to the Black Box and its surrounds. Run by Sean Kelly and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival team, it’s usually the January pick-me-up for those of us in need of an arts fix. Maybe it’s being appreciated a little bit more with all of the uncertainty and scarcity of live music in particular.
Excited to announce a new show in Belfast next year as part of @Cqaf⚡ Thursday 5 May at the Festival Marquee. Tickets on sale now at https://t.co/kRwzlXS8en.#AsTheLoveContinues pic.twitter.com/VypsT9x55D— Mogwai (@mogwaiband) December 13, 2021
It is continuing, if not quite as planned, certainly with enough guts to help lift the January blues.
Whatever you were doing in the 1980s Hazel O'Connor would have come on your radar with 'Will you?'. She is still touring and has moved her planned festival gig to February. She demonstrates some of what the Out to Lunch magic is: music of all genres, comedy, film and artists at all stages of their careers right in the heart of Belfast.
Some highlights: Ríoghnach Connolly who I came across on the Duncairn Arts virtual cabaret will delight with her magical voice.
Ciara O Neill will also offer you some soothing tunes.
If you're interested in hearing the one of the few professional flamenco guitarists in Ireland, Paddy Anderson is the man to support.
But if you’re looking for a heavier sound, Crow Black Chicken will wake up those brain cells. Although the mosh pit is banned — as is all dancing unless you're getting married that day — you can shake you head back and forward if suitably socially distanced, while dodging the waiter on table service duty.
For comedy the brilliant Belfast-based comic Paul Currie will show some work in progress based around mental health while Robin Ince would be worth checking out.
The film 'Wattstax' will be shown for the first time in Ireland. Hailed as the Black Woodstock, it was opened by the Rev Jesse Jackson in the 1970s. It also captures a heady moment in mid-1970s, “black-is-beautiful” African-American culture, when Los Angeles’ black community came together just seven years after the Watts riots to celebrate its survival and expending a renewed hope in its future. Well worth spending a Sunday afternoon in the green room to experience.
The breadmaking workshop has been sold out but all the information on current show status is available on the festival website.
Some venue changes have occurred and a few live streams may replace in-person performances. But in the chaos that surrounds the lives of the arts community, festivals and venues, it's good to know that the desire to keep the show on the road and the uplift and joy that arts audiences can experience by having an afternoon or evening out is still possible. It’s a pity there is no visual arts component featured in the festival but many of the galleries re-open this week with the Mac opening on January 5 after its quick decision to close and pause activity over new year.