From epic to intimate, live to online, local to international, the fifteenth annual Outburst Queer Art Festival has an incredible array of art and events showcasing queer talent. With a centrepiece of Conor Mitchell’s MASS, bringing together the 64 musicians of the Ulster Orchestra, acclaimed Irish soprano Giselle Allen and six international film makers, this year’s festival includes music, art, live performance, poetry, talks, film screenings and live podcasts in venues across the Northern Irish capital and online. Other highlights include Richard O’Leary’s true stories of queer northern life in Border Fairies, talks fromone of the most influential queer writers, thinkers and activists of her generation Sarah Schulman, and a queer audio meditation on outdoor spaces Calling the Corners from Dominic Montague.
Following his Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards triumph with Abomination: A DUP Opera (Outburst 2019), Ivor Novello-nominated composer Conor Mitchell returns to the festival to present an epic evening that smashes together the sacred and profane in queer ceremony. In Belfast’s iconic Belfast Telegraph Building, MASS(17 – 18 Nov) takes the time-honoured ceremonies of Christian faith that have been performed over centuries, and creates a new place of connection and celebration where all are welcome. Part classical oratio, part rave, audiences will be able to walk freely around the space to view the central Ulster Orchestra and commissioned films from international filmmakers (Egypt, Brazil, Syria, USA, Jamaica, India) projected in cinematic scale onto the walls of the old newspaper building, visually responding to the movements of a mass through different queer lenses from around the globe.
Supported by the Share History Fund marking the 100th anniversary of the partition of Ireland, Richard O’Leary’s Border Tales uses traditional Irish storytelling to recount stories of life with his partner Marvin, a Protestant Reverend with a parish across both sides of the divide. Other live performances include David Hoyle: Rebellion: the fireball of the cabaret apocalypse and the original performance avalanche and raging bona-fide performance legend.
For those who are still not venturing indoors, Calling the Corners is a specially commissioned queer walking meditation for people that don’t like meditation. Dominic Montague and musician Chris W. Ryan have created an audio piece that is best listened to in green spaces, but can be listened to anytime and anywhere. Also available to any location, many events are streaming online including poetry from landmark anthology Lifeboats: Queering the Green, and a special screening of Mondial 2010, shown in collaboration with Queer Cinema for Palestine, with very special guests Ghadir al Shafie and Sarah Schulman. Sarah Schulman, writer, thinker and activist, will also be in conversation with Monica Pearl, a fellow ACT UP New York veteran, about her acclaimed new book Let the Record Show on ACT UP, one of the most vital and successful activist movements of our time.
Both live and online, podcasts will include the debut live show from The Kate Brennan Harding Music podcast, Belfast based Fist City talking about queer country music, Dublin cabaret icon Veda Lady and HIV activist and academic Robbie Lawlor in Poz Vibe, and The State of Us: Art, Queers and the State Podcast.
Queer art features in many forms, including a queer art market, large-scale commissioned cartoon works by Helen Gomez which responds her experiences of becoming disabled due to long Covid. Isabella Anna Koban will be unveiling her new mural The Full Indian Rope Trick, a specially commissioned depiction of Artist in Residence Colette Bryce’s most powerful poems.
Collette Bryce will feature in other events in the festival, including a live in-conversation and a poetry masterclass. Joelle Taylor, who has just been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize for poetry, will also be delivering a masterclass.
Artistic Director Ruth McCarthy said, “We are so excited here at Outburst to have live-in-person events back. After a tough couple of years for artists, artist support continues to be our driving force. From daring new collaborations with Conor Mitchell and Ulster Orchestra to incredible works from emerging local and international artists, we hope this year’s festival will be a time of reconnection for LGBTQ+ community and an exciting space to get back to sharing the vital stories and brilliant ideas we need at this time.”
Chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Roisín McDonough said, “As Outburst’s long-term principal funder, the Arts Council is delighted to see this year’s festival return live, in-person, and stronger than ever. As the arts can finally begin to ease off the brakes, we can look forward to new commissions, new showcasing opportunitiesfor young rising talent, new collaborations, and some truly unforgettable experiences, including that much-anticipated world premiere of MASS by Conor Mitchell, surely one of the most original and exciting composers to emerge from Northern Ireland. As we look to the future, what better symbol of hope and change than one of the world’s foremost LGBTQ+ arts festivals, right here on our doorstep?”