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The Arts in Northern Ireland

For the visitor to Northern Ireland there is an abundance of opportunities for studying or participating in the arts—or just having a good time attending events and seeing the real Northern Ireland. The organizers of the many organizations and festivals are very friendly and open to outsiders. They want North Americans to see that Northern Ireland has a rich cultural and artistic life and is not just a hotbed of troubles.

The Verbal Arts Center is a busy drop-in resource center in Londonderry where you can obtain information on literary events, join a writing workshop, attend a reading or “poetry slam,” purchase publications by Irish authors, and use the Center’s computer database to find the latest on Irish writers and events. In addition to being a hub for local literary arts, the center also aims to be a “window into international literature.” It regularly sponsors an international storytelling festival.

In Belfast, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland runs the “Artslink” office, where you can find arts events throughout the province. You can check their database, or get a monthly broadsheet listing festivals and events.

Belfast is also home to the Creative Writers’ Network, an umbrella organization bringing together writers’ groups from all over Northern Ireland. They organize writing courses in all genres.

And if you’re an aspiring screenplay writer, the Northern Ireland Film Commission is worth checking out. They connect script writers with production companies and offer helpful publications on how to get started making films. As for live theatre, the Shankhill Theatre Company in Belfast, is open to anyone who wants to act or write drama for production.

In Belfast, the Linen Hall Library features a regular monthly schedule of lectures on literary and historical issues. In their pleasant café you are actually encouraged to linger over coffee or lunch while reading their library materials.

Most events are free. Dates and opening times vary, so call or write for information:

Verbal Arts Center. Located in the Cathedral Old School on London St., within the walled city section of Londonderry. Open 9-5:30 Mon.-Fri. Call Sam Burnside, 011-44-1504-266946.

Artslink: The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, MacNeice House, 77 Malone Rd., Belfast, Northern Ireland T9 6AQ. Call Mathew Hendry, 011-44-1232-385200.

West Belfast Festival, Culturalann Mnacadaim O’Faich, 216 Falls Rd., Belfast, Northern Ireland. Call Georde Murtagh, 011-44-1232-313440.

Belfast Folk Festival, 249 Cavehill Rd., Belfast, Northern Ireland. Call Nigel Martin, 011-44- 1232-711547.

Bangor Aspects Festival of Literature/Bangor Visual Arts Festival, North Down Burrough Council, Town Hall, Bangor, Northern Ireland BT20 4BT; 011-44-1247-270371.

Appalachian and Bluegrass Festival, Ulster-American Folk Park, Mellon Rd., Castledown, Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland BT78 5QY; 011-44-1662-243292, fax 011-44-1662-24241; uafp@iol.ie.

The Creative Writers’ Network, 81/87 Academy St., Belfast, Northern Ireland BT1 2J5; 011- 44-1232-242910, fax 011-44-1232-312264.

Northern Ireland Film Commission, 21 Ormeau Ave., Belfast, Northern Ireland BT2 8HD.

Writing Across Borders Project and Shankhill Theatre Company, 1 Ballysillan Dr., Belfast, Northern Ireland BT14 8HQ; Tel./fax 011- 44-1232-391240.

Linen Hall Library, 17 Donegall Sq. N, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT1 5GD; 011-44-1232- 321707, fax 011-44-1232-43856.

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