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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
City festival opens with a bang
Fireworks
Thousands attended Thursday night's display
The 44th year of the Belfast Festival at Queen's has opened with a bang.

Thousands of people attended a fireworks extravaganza at Ormeau Park held to mark the event.

This year's festival, from 19 October to 4 November, boasts a variety of events including films, exhibitions, concerts and family events.

Festival director Graeme Farrow said was there was no better way to ignite the festival flame than with a show by the world's leading pyrotechnicians.

"With fireworks in Ormeau Park, the new Spiegeltent venue on Custom House Square, one of the world's great singers in the Waterfront Hall and a talk on George Best in the Elmwood Hall, the opening couple of days reveal the quality and diversity of Belfast Festival at Queen's," he said.

Bernie Kelly of Belfast City Council said they were delighted to support the opening of the festival which took place on Thursday night.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing huge crowds of people coming together to enjoy a really memorable and theatrical experience and to celebrate Belfast in one of our finest parks".

The Ulster Bank Opening Concert tops the bill at the Waterfront Hall on Friday 20 October, featuring world-renowned Argentine tenor Josť Cura with the Ulster Orchestra.

Three local school choirs will be performing at the Waterfront Hall in advance of the opening concert.

The festival opened with a fireworks extravaganza
The festival opened with a fireworks extravaganza

While some festival events, including Buena Vista Social Club, Kila and Colin Murphy, have already sold out there are other treats in store.

This weekend will offer the first glimpse of one of the world's most decadent travelling cabaret and music salons, The Spiegeltent.

This is a mirrored art nouveau pavilion which will play host to everything from world music and cabaret to talks.

The Brian Irvine Ensemble will launch the Spiegeltent experience on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October.

Perrier Newcomer Award winner Good Wil Hodgson will kick off the Magner's Comedy festival on Sunday 22 October.

Another comedy highlight will be Perrier Award-nominated Dutch Elm Conservatoire who are bringing their sketch show to the Baby Grand Opera House from Thursday 2 until Saturday 4 November.

The BT Talks programme returns with a range of voices from broadcast, politics and literature including Ian Rankin, the UK's best-selling crime writer at The Spiegeltent on Sunday 22 October.

Other speakers at the Elmwood Hall include the Rt Hon Lord Neil Kinnock on Monday 23 October and Clive James on Tuesday 31 October.

On stage

Audiences will be given an insight into one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Manchester United, by award-winning author Gordon Burn on 20 October.

Musically, the festival boasts talent from around the globe including American favourites Lambchop Friday 27 October at the Mandela Hall and Jill Barber on Friday 2nd November.

Playwright Martin Lynch is bringing Holding Hands at Paschendale starring Ciaran McMenamin to the Lyric Theatre from Friday 13 October to Saturday 4 November.

Marie Jones who has collaborated with Liverpudlian playwright Maurice Bressman will also launch The Liverpool Boat at The Dockers Club from Thursday 19 October to Saturday 4 November.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Maggie Taggart reports on this year's Belfast Festival



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