The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival was established in the Autumn of 1999 with our first festival taking place in May 2000.
The festival was the brainchild of local playwright Martin Lynch and developed by Sean Kelly. Seed funding was found from the then Laganside Corporation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.
The festival was an attempt to regenerate the north city centre through arts and culture, an area which had fallen into some dereliction over the preceding decades.
The organisers felt that post Good Friday Agreement (1998), there was a desire and willingness to reclaim the city centre in the evening, a place which, at the time, largely emptied after 5.30pm.
With some 45 events over seven days, the 1st Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival was a relatively modest offering yet with names which included Germaine Greer, Jeremy Hardy, Bill Drummond, and Bernard MacLaverty contained early signs of significant artistic ambition.
The first festival contained other elements which remain in the Festival’s DNA to this day. Then, as now, we were interested in the creative use of city centre space. In 1999 there was no MAC, no Black Box, no Oh Yeah, no Sunflower Bar and a lack of performance spaces in general.
We therefore hosted plays in pubs, folk on a boat on the Lagan and string quartets in North St. Arcade. That urge to animate the city continues today with concerts in St Anne’s Cathedral and the 1st Presbyterian Church in Rosemary St.
We wanted our performances to be as accessible as possible and from our earliest days hosted numerous free events and insisted on very affordable ticket pricing – a tradition we strive to maintain.
Such was the strength of the response to our first festival that we decided to become an annual event and we established the Festival as a limited company with charitable status. Our aim has always been to grow the festival in an incremental and sustainable way.
The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival now takes place for 11 days each April/May (our dates are determined by the first Mayday Bank Holiday) and regularly hosts over 150 shows in some 30 different venues.
In 2006 we established the Out to Lunch Arts Festival – a three and a half week festival in January offering lunchtime (and latterly evening) shows featuring the best in comedy, theatre, literature and music. With shows and a hot lunch for £7.00, Out to Lunch has become one of the best loved Winter festivals on these islands drawing artists and audiences from all over the world.
Our income is now evenly divided between self-generated (box office and sponsorship income) and public funding (see below).
We use our public investment to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to our programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it or be able to afford it and to keep our extraordinary built heritage alive and animated.
As an organisation, we strive to be welcoming, professional and boundlessly curious; playful, ambitious and rigorous; resourceful, honest, and generous; collaborative, Belfastian and world class.
Selected Artists who have appeared at the Festivals
Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (May)
Handsome Family, Billy Bragg, Bill Drummond, Jimeoin, Jim O’Rourke, Rocket from the Crypt, David Kitt, Sun Ra Arkestra, Louise de Bernieres, Will Self, Tom Paulin, Bernard MacLaverty, Jeremy Hardy, Gorkys Zygotic Mincki, Desmond Dekker, Patti Smith, The Skatalites, Buck 65, Cat Power, Camera Obscura, Low, Prince Buster, Lydia Lunch, Richard Hawley, Bert Jansch, Terry Hall, Julian Cope, Michael Franti, The Melvins, Germaine Greer, Nick Hornby, Ronnie Drew, Zadie Smith, Irvine Welsh, Rich Hall, Linton Kwesi Johnson, James Kelman, Gruff Rhys, Geno Washington, Dirty Projectors, Ulrich Schnauss, Damo Suzuki, The Unthanks, The Fall, The Orb, Jonathan Richman, Sinead O’Connor, Jeffrey Lewis, Candi Staton, Lloyd Cole, Gilles Peterson, Mark Thomas, Daedalus, Calvin Harris, Imelda May, Frightened Rabbit, Teenage Fanclub, Phil Kay, Dylan Moran, Jason Byrne, Arthur Scargill, Jerry Sadowitz, Rob Newman, Gang of Four, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Toumani Diabate, Divine Comedy, Hope Sandoval, Sly and Robbie, Pat McCabe, Ardal O’Hanlon, Edna O’Brien, Echo and the Bunnymen, DJ Food, James Vincent McMorrow, The Human League, John Cooper Clarke, Colm Toibin, Andrew Maxwell, John Pilger, Liam Clancy, Drive By Truckers, Talvin Singh, Kate Rusby, John Grant, John Cale, Death in Vegas, Field Music, St. Etienne, Dexys, Adam Ant, Bobby Conn, John Shuttleworth, Tariq Ali, Lionel Shriver, John Hegley, Nathan Fake, Thee Oh Sees, David Holmes, Angel Olsen, Sean Hughes, Gavin Esler, British Sea Power, Lucy Rose, David O’Doherty, Simon Amstell, Amadou and Miriam, DJ Yoda, Fuck Buttons, Yuck, Tinariwen, Fat White Family, Glenn Tilbrook, Wild Beasts, Dum Dum Girls, Martha Reeves, Shonen Knife, The Selecter, Jimi Goodwin, De La Soul, The Charlatans, The Staves, The Stranglers, Wilko Johnson, Gaz Coombes, Paul Muldoon, Tracey Thorn, David O’Doherty, Marc Almond, The Zombies, Guy Garvey, Courtney Pine, Lee Scratch Perry, Grandmaster Flash, Craig Charles, Terry Reid, Steve Mason, Roger McGough, Sofie hagen, Bridget Christie, Sugarhill Gang, Willaim McCarthy, Chip Taylor, Amy Liptrot, Robert Cray, Wreckless eric, William Basinski, Eimear Mcbride.
Out to Lunch (January)
Duke Special, Foy Vance, Junior Marvin, Scroobius Pip, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Billy Childish, Dick Gaughan, Max Tundra, Broken Family Band, Cara Dillon, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, Edwyn Collins, Bonobo, The Low Anthem, Malcolm Middleton, The Haggis Horns, James Yorkston, The Phantom Band, Justin Townes Earle, Teddy Thompson, Roddy Woomble, CW Stoneking, Ghostpoet, Luke Haines, Pete Molinari, Lanterns on the Lake, Portico Quartet, Beth Jeans Houghton, Janis Ian, Mungo’s Hifi, The Strypes, Karine Polwart, Hollie Cook & Prince Fatty, Arlo Guthrie, The Jim Jones Revue, Daughter, David Rodigan, Smoke Fairies, Le Galaxie, John Otway, Lindi Ortega, Deer Tick, Jacqui Dankworth, Riot Jazz Brass Band, The Correspondents, Hugh Cornwell, Booker T Jones, Young Fathers, King Creosote, Beardyman, Boy with Tape on his Face, The Two Bears, Patty Griffin, Sarah Kendall, Francesca Martinez, Hazel O’Connor, Roisin Ingle, Matthew E White, East India Youth, Attila the Stockbroker, Villagers, Girls Names, Dick Gaughan, Isy Suttie, Fairport Convention, James Vincent McMorrow, Turin Brakes, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, RUTSDC, Adrian Sherwood.