You wait all year for a community festival and then two come along at once.
For as Féile an Phobail storms ahead this week to its August 9 finale, over in the east of Belfast they are gearing up for their own annual festival shenanigans.
The two celebrations will, in fact, overlap with the Eastside Arts folk lining out from August 6 but while the west fest is online-only, the wise man and women of the east have opted for a hybrid approach. "This year’s events can be enjoyed online from the comfort of your own home, outdoors in person, or in a small number of east Belfast locations as part of a live, socially distanced audience," says Eastside Arts Festival director Rachel Kennedy. "The festival has adapted to ensure that it continues to bring unique, exciting, joyful events to east Belfast this summer whilst making safety and accessibility the main priority."
Among this year's highlights are theatre from Kabosh in the Connswater Shopping Centre, a virtual discovery walking trail dedicated to CS Lewis, Eastside Sessions from Portview Trade Centre on the Newtownards Road curated by singer-songwriter Anthony Toner and a 75th birthday bash for Van Morrison presented by Stuart Bailey of radio fame.
#Belfasthour next Friday 7th we open #TheKingOfEastBelfast in Connswater Shopping Centre as part of #ESA2020 ....our classy posters went up today 👇Tickets are flying out the door so get booking for live socially distanced theatre https://t.co/V7rfU5fhOA pic.twitter.com/7Tkg6Licyv— Kabosh (@KaboshTheatre) July 30, 2020
Added Rachel Kennedy: “With the theme, ‘Moments of Joy’, the programme continues to reflect and celebrate the growing diversity and creativity that is making its presence felt in this part of the city. A huge thanks to the support of Arts Council of Northern Ireland as well as all our funders and sponsors who have helped us deliver a festival during these challenging times. We warmly invite you to enjoy this year’s unique and exciting programme and we thank you for supporting not only EastSide Arts, but the many artists we have had the pleasure of working with to make it happen.”
Pre-Covid, Féile an Phobail and Eastside Arts had held joint events or activities in each other's backyard – in 2018 the Eastside troubadours brought the Van Morrison songbook — in Irish — to An Chultúrlann.
While this year's restricted programmes has limited the physical cross-city links, organisers say the online events will make it easier for art-lovers from right across Belfast to join in next week's 'moments of joy'.
"It's always great to welcome visitors to east Belfast for the annual festival," said East Belfast Partnership Board CEO and festival founder Maurice Kinkead. "Hopefully the online content this year will enable even more people to tune in — everyone is welcome to the east."