NOW entering its teenage years, and as is the case with any precocious teen, this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival promises never a dull moment.

Attending this year’s celebrations will be an eclectic mix of international and local acts serving up their own unique brands of entertainment in and around Commercial Court.

The Festival began life in May 2000 attracting an audience of just over 5,000. It now boasts audiences of over 60,000 with over 150 events in over 30 venues.

Workshops, family entertainment and street performance will be spread throughout the four corners of the Cathedral Quarter during the start of May as the festival kicks off in its own imitable style.

Festival Director Sean Kelly explained to the Belfast Media Group how turning 13 is “always a milestone and this year we’re very excited to be entertaining our teens.”

“Our programme is suitably celebratory in spite of the challenges facing the arts at this time. We’re immensely proud of what has been achieved over those 13 years, both in terms of the festival and the Cathedral Quarter in general.

“We intend to keep on doing what we do best – trying to make great events happen at prices most people can afford.

“We always put out a brilliant and diverse line-up and this year is no different. Over 11 days we will be welcoming affordable events as brilliant and diverse as The Undertones, Velvet Underground legend John Cale, music from Death in Vegas and musings from Alexei Sayle, the festival will play a lead role in ensuring 2012 is a momentous year for our city.”

The CQAF comedy corner is fit to bursting this year with carefully cultivated stand-up with turns from Ardal O’Hanlon, Never Mind The Buzzock’s Simon Amsell and making his festival debut, in a gig that is already sold-out, Black Books star Dylan Moran.

One of the signature themes of the CQAF is the chance to combine vintage sounds with a modern twist and this year is no different with music sets from St Etienne, a Studio 54 inspired The Barge is Burning – A Celebration of Voguing and New York Disco on the Belfast Barge by the River Lagan, and comedy Celtic hip-hop band, The Rubberbandits taking centre stage at the festival marquee at Custom House Square.

Established artists are an annual highlight, but CQAF also showcases the best in local music. The legendary Henry McCullough, La Faro and Gráinne Holland with Brendan Hendry are just a few artists confirmed for the 11-day event.

West Belfast Gaelic chanteuse Gráinne Holland told the Belfast Media Group she was delighted to be performing at the year’s CQAF.

“I’m doing an afternoon gig in the Black Box this year and I will be performing with a full band. Feilimí O’Connor will be accompanying me on guitar, Rohan Young on bodhrán, Garry Duffy on flute and Mickey McCloskey on bouzouki. It will be a chance to perform songs from my debut album Teanga na nGael, a collection of songs as Gaeilge and Scots Gaelic.

“It’s an exciting time for the Irish language and I’m so happy to be in a position to promote the language through music and song. It’s an honour for me to be able to generate interest in the Gaelic song tradition at a festival like the annual Cathedral Quarter.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council said: “The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival has firmly established itself as a highlight of the annual cultural calendar and one of the cornerstones of the arts-driven regeneration we’ve seen in this area of the city in recent years.

“The 2012 programme will no doubt build on the festival’s loyal audience base, with an eclectic programme full of some of the most talked about names on the local and international arts scene.”

Tickets can be purchased from the Welcome Centre, 47 Donegall Place or visit