Stephen James Smith

Poetry reading like you’ve never seen it before.

Stephen delivers his poetry to a backdrop of graphic artistry created on the fly by the amazing graphic artist Steve Simpson and accompanied by a musical soundscape from Aidan Murphy.

This is a truly new kind of show.

Every single show is truly unique – the art is drawn in real-time on an iPad whilst Stephen delivers his big poetry to a live and inspiring soundscape – beautiful stuff!

Stephen James Smith is a Dublin poet and playwright central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word scene in Ireland today. His poetry videos have amassed over 2.5 million views.

In 2017 he was commissioned by St. Patrick’s festival to write a new poem as a “Celebratory Narrative” of Ireland. The resultant piece ‘My Ireland’ is accompanied by a short film which has been viewed over 300,000 times and was screened at the London film festival.

In 2018 he was commissioned by Dublin stadium sponsor Aviva to write a poem to highlight the recent rugby final between England & Ireland on Paddy’s day. The poem entitled “Bring it Home” chalked up over 750,000 views across the weekend – and Ireland won!

Stephen has performed at high profile events & venues such as Electric Picnic, other voices, The National Concert Hall in Dublin, The Barbican in London, Vicar Street & the London Palladium (alongside Oscar winner Glen Hansard); The Oscar Wilde Awards in Los Angeles, Glastonbury Festival and many more.

Simon Armitage

The UK’s Poet Laureate Simon Armitage is one of Britain’s most well-established and well-loved literary talents, and has been bringing us his unique blend of wit, empathy and caustic insight for more than three decades, since the publication of his debut collection of poems Zoom! in 1989.

2021 welcomed two new publications: The Owl and the Nightingale, a new rendition of a Middle English narrative poem, bringing the verse to life with energy and humour; and A Vertical Art, a collection of Armitage’s spirited public lectures as Oxford University Professor of Poetry, bringing together subjects as diverse as Bob Dylan and Elizabeth Bishop.

Simon Armitage was born in Marsden, West Yorkshire in 1963. In 2020 he published Magnetic Field, a collection bringing together all the poems has written throughout his career about his home village.

Introduced by Hilary Copeland

Doors open 6.45pm | Unreserved Seating

Jonathan Barnbrook in conversation

Jonathan Barnbrook is a graphic designer and musician. He will talk about his work and design and his musical collaboration with Anil Aykan.

Jonathan worked with David Bowie from 2003 up until his passing in 2016. In that time he was responsible for designing album covers including Heathen, The Next Day and Blackstar – for which he won a Grammy. Barnbrook was also part of the curating panel and main graphic designer for the exhibition ‘David Bowie Is’.

From school to college, Saint Martin’s and the Royal College of Art – a trajectory he says is down to free education – his dedication and skill in the medium were discussed across the industry before he even graduated from his masters. Post-education Jonathan set up his own studio immediately.

From here, an array of projects began – from David Bowie to Damien Hirst, Penguin Books, Adbusters, the Occupy movement, several famed font releases – leading the designer down a path of thoughtful and often political or music-related projects.

Most recently, however, the latter has become more of a focus, as the designer and his partner Anil Aykan launched Fragile Self. An electronic duo who place as much focus on visuals as music, their album took several years to make and includes a 480-page tome visualising the poetic detail of each song.


“The Conor Theatre is on the second floor of the Birley Building (art college), Block BA, of Ulster University’s Belfast campus in the Cathedral Quarter. Please arrive at the reception of the Birley Building with your ticket/s to gain access through the turnstiles to the stairs and elevators.

The Tangerine Readings

‘I peel and portion / A tangerine and spit the pips and feel / The drunkenness of things being various…’

Join The Tangerine for an evening of prose and poetry from contributors past and present! The Tangerine is a Belfast-based magazine of new writing, published in print three times a year and featuring fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography and illustration.

The magazine was started in 2016, with the mission of publishing some of the best new writing from Belfast and beyond, and in the years since has given a platform to hundreds of writers. Come along to this event as part of Cathedral Quarter Art to hear readings from contributors, introduced by the Tangerine team.

Hollie McNish: Slug Tour

Rescheduled from OTL ’22

Ted Hughes Award winner Hollie McNish is a poet whose live readings are not to be missed. Expect strong language and adult content ribbon wrapped in poetry and chat as Hollie reads from her new collection: Slug…and other things I’ve been told to hate.

Hollie is a writer based between Cambridge and Glasgow. She has published four poetry collections Papers, Cherry Pie, Plum, Slug, one play Offside and one poetic memoir Nobody Told Me, of which the Scotsman suggested “The world needs this book”. She was the first poet to record at Abbey Road Studios.

Her poems have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish and Japanese and she has performed them worldwide alongside the likes of Irvine Welsh, Kae Tempest, Jackie Kay, Helen Pankhurst and Young Fathers. Her new title – Slug: and other things I’ve been told to hate – is published in May 2021 with Fleet, Hachette, available now to pre-order.

As well as live readings, Hollie is a big fan of online accessibility – her poetry videos have attracted millions of viewings worldwide.

About Slug…

From Finnish mermaids and soppy otters to Kellogg’s anti-masturbation pants, Slug is a book that holds a mirror up to the world, past and present, through Hollie’s driving, funny and beautiful words. A blend of poetry, memoir and short story, Slug is an absolutely joyful read about the human condition: from birth to death and her attempt to manage the tangle in-between.

‘She writes with honesty, conviction, humour and love. She points out the absurdities we’ve grown too used to and lets us see the world with fresh eyes’
Kae Tempest

Doors 1.45pm | Unreserved Seating

Bonnie Greer In Conversation

Bonnie Greer will talk to Kim Lenaghan about her work in the arts, her literary career and read an excerpt from her new book, a work in progress.

Bonnie Greer, OBE, is an American-British playwright, novelist and critic. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the eldest of seven children born to Ben – a Mississippi sharecropper, Chicago factory worker and D-Day veteran – and Willie Mae, who went to work at fifteen to support her family. Although she began writing plays at the age of nine, Bonnie initially set out on a legal career, the career of choice for a black girl coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. She decided to return to writing instead of pursuing the law and went on to study playwriting in Chicago under David Mamet and at the Actors Studio in New York with Elia Kazan.

Bonnie Greer has penned numerous books and novels including a biography of writer and social activist Langston Hughes, and explorations of the lives of influential people in the arts, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald. She is a columnist for The New European newspaper. Her latest piece on how the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio can help us survive this pandemic is published in The Independent.

Bonnie has been a regular contributor to BBC2’s ‘Newsnight Review’ and ‘Question Time’. She was a panel member on the show that also featured Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Commenting after the recording she called it ‘probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life’. The encounter formed the basis for her libretto for Errollyn Wallen’s opera, Yes (2011), commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre. Her plays have been produced on BBC Radio 3 & 4; BBC 2; and in the West End.

She has won the Verity Bargate Award for best New Play and has been shortlisted for the John Whiting Award.

In 2010 Bonnie was named by the Observer as one of the 300 Public Intellectuals in the UK – the only female playwright – and was also awarded an OBE or services to the Arts.  She has been on the Board of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Deputy Chair of the British Museum where she is currently in partnership with the Director, Hartwig Fischer in a project called “The Era Of Reclamation”.  She has served on the boards of RADA, London Film School and Theatre Royal, Stratford East.  She will read an excerpt  from her novel-in-progress: “The Acrobat’s Assistant- A Tale Of The Middle Passage.”

Doors 7.15pm | Unreserved Seating

Dr John Cooper Clarke – The I Wanna Be Yours Tour

John Cooper Clarke shot to prominence in the 1970s as the original ‘people’s poet’.

His unique poetry writing and rapidfire delivery style was recorded and put to music by legendary producerMartin Hannett and a band of Mancunian superstars, such as Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley and The Durutti Column’s Vinnie Reilly.

Seminal tracks such as Beasley Stand Evidently Chickentown featured on the acclaimed Snap Crackle and Bop, one of 4 original album releases on Sony Records in the late 70s and early 80s. They established John as one of the most prolific artistes of the Punk years.

His poetry collection 10 Years in An Open Necked Shirt came out in the early 80s on Penguin, featuring the lyrics to his albums and more original material. It is one of the biggest selling poetry books in the UK.

Since then his career has spanned cultures, audiences, art forms and continents. These days he performs purely as a stand up solo poet. His unique poetry show has been running in theatres worldwide for over 12 years.

John’s latest poetry collection The Luckiest Guy Alive was released worldwide in 2018 via Picador/Macmillan. Featuring over 30 poems, it includes many of his adoring public’s favourites such as; I’ve Fallen In Love With My WifeBeasley Boulevard and Get Back on Drugs you Fat F*ck.

Today, JCC is as relevant and vibrant as ever and his influence just as visible on today’s pop culture. Aside from his trademark ‘look’ continuing to resonate with fashionistas young and old, his poetry is included on national curriculum syllabus and his effect on modern music is huge.

His influence can be heard within the keen social observations of the Arctic Monkeys and Plan B amongst many others. John has been involved in two recent global number one albums. The Arctic Monkeys putting one of John’s best loved poems, I Wanna Be Yours, to music on their best selling album A:M. JCC’s collaboration with Plan BIll Manors spawned a best-selling soundtrack album and a hard hitting movie.

His latest live show, is a mix of classic verse, extraordinary new material, hilarious ponderings on modern life, good honest gags, riffs and chat – a chance to witness a living legend at the top of this game.

Doors 7.30pm | Unreserved Seating

The Lifeboat Press and Bad Betty Press

Join The Lifeboat Press and Bad Betty Press for an evening of poetry, featuring Antonia Jade King, Susannah Dickey and Joel Auterson. 

The Lifeboat Press are a Belfast based independent publisher, run by Stephen Connolly and Manuela Moser. 

Bad Betty are an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. We love writing that is bad (meaning good) and beautiful (‘a Betty’ in 90s slang). We love the strange, raw and risk-taking. We believe strongly in art’s capacity to challenge its own definition, to curve away from the norm, making space for more and varied voices. We’re proud to be supported by Arts Council England.

Antonia Jade King is one of the hosts of Boomerang Club, and a previous Hammer & Tongue finalist. She has featured at Poetry and Shaah and Heaux Noire and was part of Apples and Snakes Writing Room programme in 2018. She has performed at numerous events including Love Supreme festival and Rallying Cry at Battersea Arts Centre. She is currently a Barbican Young Poet and her debut pamphlet ‘She Too Is a Sailor‘ is out with Bad Betty Press.

Susannah Dickey grew up in Derry and now lives in Belfast. She is the author of three poetry pamphlets, I had some very slight concerns (2017), genuine human values (2018) and bloodthirsty for marriage (2020). Her poetry has been published in AmbitThe White ReviewPoetry Ireland Review and Magma, amongst others. In 2017 she was the winner of the inaugural Verve Poetry Festival competition, and in 2018 she was shortlisted for The White Review short story prize. She is an Eric Gregory Award winner, a prize granted for a collection by poets under the age of 30.
Joel Auterson, author of Unremember (2017), is a Northern Irish poet and game developer, a former Barbican Young Poet and host of spoken word night, Boomerang.

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