I love the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. For the past ten years – 2011 is the 11th festival – it has provided evenings and afternoons that live in the memory to be buffed up and shared on long, dark, wet July (sic) nights.

It has everything from the glamour of Glitter and Sparkle to the laughter of the Crossroads céilí,the erudition of Germaine Greer to the ditziness of Dan Eggs, 80s rock fests and explosive trad nights, side=splitting comics and the simply indescribable.

Many’s a night I’ve spent in awe, in stitches, in heaven or in bewilderment at the extraordinary people who come from all over the world to share their ideas, their creativity and their joy.

The CQAF may have changed over the years but the philosphy stays the same.
“We started off a little bit anarchic, left-field, challenging festival with an irreverant attitude to things and I like to think that that’s still there,” says Sean Kelly, CQAF director. “We probably get a bit more funding these days but I think our world view and our valvues and the ethos of the festival remain challenging and questioning and unafraid of taking a poke at our sacred cows.”

Needless to say, it’s very hard work for Sean and his staff, but there must be times when he thinks, “yea, this is what it’s all about.”

“Yea, sometimes there are dark and lonely days in the office when you’re worrying about funding or about a band you’re trying to book and it’s not happening and you do feel a bit frustrated, but then it miraculously comes together and you’re stanging at the back of a room and Eliza Carthy is singing a beautiful songs or you’re in the John Hewitt and Lumiere are playing or you’re in the wonderful marquee and Sharon Shannon or Sly and Robbie are lifting the roof off, and you know than, this is why I do this’ because evryone is totally engaged and electrified by what’s happening on the stage for throse two or three horus and all your cares and worries are completely lifted off your shoulders and that is reward in itself.” Everyone who knows the festival will have festival memories of evenings like that and this year has it’s own anticipations.

Having catholic tastes (that’s catholic with a small c!) highlight for me will run the gamut of Joan Bakewell, Lumiere, the West Ocean String Quartet, Mark Kermode, Hot Club of Cowtown, Glitter and Sparkle, Ardal O’Hanlon, Toumani Diabate, Paul Durcan, A Night with George and the wonderful jazz singer, Claire Martin. Maybe even Bertie Ahern.

Others of you might prefer Echo and the Bunnymen and the Divine Comedy but there is so much in the programme that you will no doubt be enticed by many of its sumptuous wares.

Anyway, more of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in future posts, all the bizz and tickets can be got from cqaf.com

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