Crowd cheering as the international arts festival returns to Belfast for its 60th year

Nearly 10,000 people have gathered in the Titanic Quarter to celebrate the opening of the 60th Belfast International Arts Festival.

Outdoor events company Transe Express transformed the Titanic Paddocks, adjacent to the Titanic’s ramps, with a show called Cristal Palace, with performers putting on an impressive show for the crowds on Saturday and Sunday.

The event stunned with its combination of outdoor night ballroom, airborne orchestra and acrobats.

Festival chief executive Richard Wakely said: “We want to show that Northern Ireland can provide high quality artists from home and abroad. People shouldn’t feel like they have to travel to London, Edinburgh or Dublin to see the best artists. We can bring them here, we can bring them to our people.”


Spectacular: Transe Express’ Cristal Palace at the Titanic Paddocks. Credit: Kevin Scott/Belfast Telegraph

The sold-out show was presented by the festival as a gift to thank the people of Belfast for their support for over 60 years.

“It’s important to us that the arts be accessible — the event was free,” Wakely said.

“We are still taking precautions. We limited the number of tickets because we wanted the audience to be able to socially distance, as well as the event being outdoors.

“We are aware of Covid. We want to be respectful of people. It is important that they feel safe.

“We are delighted to have kicked off our anniversary year with this captivating event. [It is] a wonderful and joyful opportunity to bring us all together after the last difficult 24 months.”

The event also included opportunities for volunteers from across the city to participate in the production.


Spectacular: Transe Express’ Cristal Palace at the Titanic Paddocks. Credit: Kevin Scott/Belfast Telegraph

Established in 1962, the city’s oldest international arts festival offers an extended season of contemporary art and cultural events to mark the historic year, with the Cristal Palace opening the celebrations.

“We would like to thank the people of Belfast, those who have supported our festival over the last six decades, those who joined us at Titanic Paddocks to open our festival and those who were part of our community cast,” said Mr Wakely. .

“We look forward to seeing you all during our extended season at the many wonderful events we have hosted.

“Most importantly, we are seizing the moment to redouble our efforts and push the boundaries of arts and ideas, programming and commissioning events that reflect our future ambitions and embody our guiding values.”

For more information about the festival, visit

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