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Festival of Fools 2016

This May Day Bank Holiday weekend the Festival of Fools promises a packed programme of dare devil feats, fast paced acrobatics, heart-stopping Hip Hop, mesmerising object manipulation, and laugh out loud comedy. Belfast's favourite family friendly festival returns for its 13th edition from Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May.

More than 120 performances will take place across the streets of Belfast City Centre and Cathedral Quarter, free of charge. You don’t even need to book. Top notch artists from Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Holland and Finland will entertain you with stories of love; acrobatic impossibilities; record breaking unicycling; puppet magicians; award winning juggling; and stunning circus.

The festival opens on Friday 29 April at 7pm in Writers’ Square with a premiere from Les Dudes. Coming from Montreal – home of contemporary circus - both performers have previously toured with Cirque du Soleil. They are fresh from a run of 300 shows in 25 countries with their new show. Their impressive circus skills will take your breath away and have you doubled over with laughter.

The festival treats continue on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday with comedy, circus, dance, puppetry, magic, live music, and visual arts all on the menu. Each evening finishes with The Big Finish - a variety style show featuring highlights from the day’s acts in the relaxed surroundings of Saint Anne’s Square.

You can expect bizarre sightings of aubergines in nappies being bottle fed by the Vegetable Nannies and non-existent wounds being patched up by the accident prone St Joan’s Ambulance as you make your way between shows in Bank Square, Cornmarket, Cotton Court, Saint Anne’s Square and Writers’ Square. Shows take place in close walking distance to each other, so there’s literally something happening around every corner!

Mimbre make a welcome return to the festival with their new show ‘Bench’. This innovative company, who last appeared in 2010, creatively mix circus and dance, resulting in stunning imagery, poetic movement, and stories with heart. Sorin Sirkus are going to make the trip from Finland for their first performance in Belfast. Sorin Sirkus started out in 1985 to deliver circus training to children and young people in Tampere and share more than a birthday with Belfast Circus School as the 2 schools are founding members of CARAVAN, the European youth and social circus network. The Kamikaze Fireflies from the USA are sure to make a memorable mark on Belfast with their fast-paced blend of skills, banter and idiocy. Ola Muchin is the first Polish performer to appear at the Festival of Fools. Ola, a puppeteer, brings her trusted magician friend, and this show promises mystery, illusion and… chickens. Umami Dance Theatre from Spain combine Hip-Hop, physical comedy and more back flips than you can possibly count. And if you’re looking for some tips on how to woo the person of your affections, Mister Mustache from Italy is the man to watch. Of course things don’t always go to plan, with hilarious results. Boom from the USA promises a dramatic theatrical experience. Peter Sweet and David Poznanter portray a cast of 6 characters through the ancient tradition of masked theatre. This show is packed full of spontaneous improvisations with the public, heart-touching drama, impossible skills and hilarious moments of sheer humanity. Dan Holzman, holder of 2 Guinness World records, returns after bowling audiences over last year with his supreme juggling talents and comic banter. Fellow American, Jamey Mossengren – World Unicycling Champion – need we say anymore?

On Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May, the public will also be treated to shows from 8 different youth and community groups from Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, and Lisburn, as part of the Young AmBUSadors and EnterTRAINers programme, supported by Translink. These shows will highlight the talents and achievements of young people from the age of 8 years through to 18, and of 1 group of people with a range of learning needs and abilities.

Groups: 3 x Belfast Youth Circus (Saturday group, Sunday group, Thursday group),

Hammer Resource Centre & Suffolk Community Centre (young people joined together through a Belfast Circus Outreach programme),

Community Circus Lisburn,

In Your Space Circus from Derry-Londonderry,

Belfast Met – students from the Towards Work and Independence Programme,

Streetwise Community Circus

This year there are an impressive 11 countries represented by 22 professional companies, alongside 8 Northern Ireland youth and community circus shows, featuring 200 performers in total.

Take your family, your friends and your granny to enjoy a great day out. Belfast is going to be ringing with the sounds of laughter and applause so if you need a lift, you know where you need to be. The Festival is encouraging the public to make smart moves with Translink for hassle-free travel to Belfast city centre for a fun-filled day out. For the Saturday and Sunday, Translink’s Family and Friends ticket offers unlimited discounted bus and rail day travel for up to 2 adults and 4 children. Also check out 1/3 off day return train and selected Goldline services. See Translink.co.uk/foolsfestival for more details.

People can also treat themselves to delicious deals in 17 restaurants, bars and cafes taking part in the Festival of Foods – a special voucher section in the festival brochure, also downloadable from the website. The offers range from children eat free, to special deals for grown-ups. The public also have a tantalising chance to win a £100 meal of their choice by simply voting for their favourite local dish from Festival of Foods partners, as part of the ‘Food Factor’ competition.

This year’s Festival will also host the Great Artdoors Gallery in Writers’ Square with artists from across Belfast creating and exhibiting paintings and drawings. Come along and join in the fun with portraits, screenprints and a general feast for the eyes. For the first time the Festival of Fools will have a Digital Ringmaster – an artist dedicated to guiding the audience through the unique Festival of Fools experience online, directing their attention to the various acts and creating a virtual experience for those people who cannot be in five places at once. You’d be a fool to miss it! For more information visit foolsfestival.com

The Festival of Fools 2015

This May Day Bank Holiday weekend laughter becomes the loudest sound in Belfast City Centre and Cathedral Quarter. Belfast’s favourite family friendly festival is back for the 12th year. The Festival of Fools brings a welcome rush of international silliness and smiles to the streets of Belfast with more than 120 free performances to enjoy from around the world from Friday 1 – Monday 4 May.

International Excellence

From the USA, there’s Jonathan Burns, the most flexible comedy act around, with his feats of crazy contortion; and Dan Holzman, a juggler with more comic turns than The Beano in a force 7 gale. Australian acrobat Fatt Matt arrives to prove to the world that spending his life living Down Under really hasn’t changed him a bit as he entertains the masses with his ukulele playing – whilst balancing on his head! From Spain, La Bella Tour present a show in which two destitute and desperate clowns are searching the planet for the perfect laugh and they are prepared to do anything to find it – catastrophe and chaos ensues!

Birthday Celebrations

2015 also marks the 30th birthday of sister organisation Belfast Community Circus School, and the Festival of Fools features more than 20 acts who have either trained, or taught at the school. Featured companies include Dot Comedy with Lost On Earth - a crashed spaceship with a dazed and confused alien in search of intelligent life in Belfast. The Barren Carrousel present Shhhhhhh!, a new circus show packed with aerial stunts, acrobatics, juggling and comedy. The Magilligans, Belfast’s favourite unicycling, juggling and cheese loving brothers, are reunited after a difficult year, spent trying to think up a new joke. The Festival opens on Friday 1 May at 7pm in Writers’ Square with “Cast Off” - the biggest street show ever to be produced by the Belfast Community Circus School with a cast of 40 young people and professional artists. Expect stunning choreography combining aerial feats with acrobatic prowess and manipulative mastery.

Community Circus Celebration

A unique Community Circus Celebration takes place on the Saturday in Writers’ Square featuring shows from 7 different youth and community groups from Belfast, Derry-Londonderry and Lisburn, highlighting the strength of the youth and community circus sector in Northern Ireland. Also joining the celebrations are a youth circus group from Cloughjordan eco village in the Republic of Ireland.

Where to join the fun

The Festival continues on Saturday 11am – 7pm; Sunday 1-7pm and Bank Holiday Monday 12-7pm with shows in Saint Anne’s Square, Writers’ Square, Cotton Court, Rosemary Street and Cornmarket. Click here for a map. If you need somebody to cheer you on as you make your way from one hilarious street show to another, there is no better mob than the Fan Families to rouse your rabble. Each evening finishes with The Big Finish - a variety style show featuring highlights from the day’s acts in the relaxed surroundings of Saint Anne’s Square. Smart Moves The Festival is encouraging the public to make smart moves with Translink for hassle-free travel to Belfast city centre for a fun-filled day out. There are various offers, such as 1/3 off Rail and selected Goldline services, as well as a Friends and Family ticket, from translink.co.uk.

Food offers

Alongside the street theatre shows, visitors can also enjoy the Festival of Foods, which will see 17 bars, restaurants and cafes offer a wide range of deals for diners ranging from special Festival menus through to free meals for children, reinforcing the Festival of Fools reputation as the best value event in the cultural calendar. For the ‘fool’ line-up visit foolsfestival.com

Sunday Treats presented by Festival of Fools

Sundays in Belfast are about to get a whole lot better, with 8 weeks of hand picked Sunday Treats. A series of the finest and funniest street theatre shows to be found in Ireland will be happening every Sunday afternoon this summer in Cathedral Quarter and Belfast City Centre. If you're the kind of person who likes to laugh and loves a bargain you would be a fool to miss out on this season of shows. After teaming up with some of the finest restaurants and bars in the area, the Festival of Fools is ready to bring you a fabulous feast of free shows and meal deals for the whole family.

With artists coming from as far afield as New Zealand, USA and the Kash Republic you can enjoy a global taste of variety and comedy with live acrobatics, juggling dexterity, mime, horseplay and even boxing!

Dansko Gida gets the party started with his surreal comedy escapades on Sunday 7th July. You can expect to be charmed by vaudeville’s finest Edwin Longbottom, stupefied by Yodel, revel in the mayhem caused by Trap, stunned by Fraser Hooper’s Boxer, cheer the fairytale romance created by Peter Sweet’s My Castle, delight in Mr H’s silent movie slapstick quality, be amazed by the Afrikan Warriors, impressed by antipodean acrobatics courtesy of Fatt Matt, and giggle at the antics of Squash. The season closes on Sunday 25th August with the curiously comic Horseplay and our favourite country juggly brothers the Magilligans.

For the past 9 years, Festival of Fools has been bringing Sundays to life in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the cream of street theatre performing hundreds of free shows. If you've never made it down before, it's time to give it a try. Give yourself and the family a Sunday Treat. You know you want to.

For more information see Festival of Fools website

Festival of Fools -10 years of coordinated comedic chaos!

From stiltwalking mermaids to sword swallowing women; from mysterious magicians through to gardeners on trapezes, the 10th Festival of Fools has got it all and everything in between. To celebrate a coming of age, the Festival brings artists from Canada, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Germany and Spain together with leading street performers from Belfast, UK and Ireland in a riotous assembly of laughter lasting five days over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. From Thursday 2nd May to Monday 6th May, there will be non-stop breathtaking action and laughter across the streets of Belfast City Centre and Cathedral Quarter, with more than 130 performances free of charge.

The Opening Ceremony features the acclaimed physical comedy company Bash Street Theatre. Inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s classic film, ‘The Circus’, this show creates some of the finest slapstick to be seen around Europe today and sets it to a backdrop of live music to create an ambience of nostalgia and laugh out loud comedy.

Some of the most surreal performances to hit the streets of Belfast will be seen in the shape of a man with a saxophone for a head; Dr Palfi, the world’s only laughologist, who will be continuing his relentless campaign to stop Natural Causes – the biggest cause of death in the world today; Travelling Obo, a mythical creature whose journey to Belfast is documented in a specially commissioned short film available on the Festival’s facebook page; an alternative walking tour courtesy of Misguided Tours; and the incomparable Chris Lynam whose comedy is so unpredictable even he doesn’t know what comes next!

Also appearing at his first Festival of Fools is Martin Bigpig aka stand-up comedian Martin Mor. Martin began his performance career more than 20 years ago with Belfast Circus School as a street performer, but has since gone on to carve out a successful career as one of the UK’s busiest and funniest comics on the stand-up circuit. Returning to his roots for one weekend only, Martin will be performing his street show in addition to compering the Big Finish Cabarets.

The multinational collaboration, Hip Cirq Europ’, brings together emerging artists from 6 EU countries in an exciting fusion of Hip Hop dance, Parkour and Contemporary Circus in a way never before seen in Northern Ireland. The show is the only ticketed event in the Festival of Fools and will be taking place in T13 on 3 & 4 May at 8pm, and at a very affordable £5 adult and £3 concessions/under 18s.

This year there are 17 restaurants, bars and cafes taking part in the Festival of Foods, which offers a huge range of discounts for audiences if they present a voucher from the brochure or website. Using the bus or train is the easy way to reach the festival and there is a wide range of great value bus and rail ticket options to choose from Translink.

With non stop shows throughout the day in locations across the City Centre and Cathedral Quarter, each evening finishes with The Big Finish - a variety style show featuring highlights from the day’s acts in the relaxed surroundings of Saint Anne’s Square. You’d be a fool to miss it!

For more information see Festival of Fools website.