Arguably one of the most influential writers and thinkers of his day, C.S. Lewis (or Jack to his friends and family) was not only born and bred in East Belfast but his influence and legacy is still very much alive across the EastSide today. From 18 – 22 November EastSide Arts will mark the impact of this literary great by celebrating his life and work through the C.S. Lewis Festival. Now in its fourth year, the Festival will showcase Lewis’ diverse works, his legacy as well as his strong connections to his childhood home of East Belfast. Through a series of events and activities including talks, film, theatre, arts, crafts, readings, music, workshops, exhibitions, tours, children’s activities and spoken word events – everyone is invited to be inspired and walk in the footsteps of Jack.
Highlights of this year’s festival include a new story inspired by the character Jadis, aka the evil White Witch from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. Join well-known Belfast actress Maria Connolly and musician Ursula Burns at the Linen Hall Library for a unique staged reading of this new work. Local artists will also reveal how C.S. Lewis inspires their work. Spend an evening with Fiona Lowe Brunell at ArtisAnn Gallery and hear how Lewis and other Irish writers inspired her work. Through photography, sculpture, painting, fashion and video, the skating group ‘Joyalists’ reveal their Lewis connection at Framewerk Gallery. Join a host of East Belfast writers, musicians and poets at EastSide Visitor Centre as they explore the work and legacy of C.S Lewis. Fantasy was a theme in Lewis’ work and with this in mind, don’t miss out on a range of fantasy film screenings in Northern Ireland’s only art deco cinema – Strand Arts Centre. Celebrate another literary great, Roald Dahl by enjoying his ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ with a twist at Canteen, Belmont Road. Closing the festival this year will be a fantastic Connswater Community Greenway event to officially open the C.S. Lewis Square, located behind the EastSide Visitor Centre, and to unveil seven magnificent Narnia inspired statues.
Through performance, talks and workshops, the Festival will explore the spiritual side of C.S. Lewis and other artists, including; Faith and Fiction workshop with Jan Carson at Strand Church which will focus on the role of parable and allegory in writing as well as help you to develop your own work. Well known personality Nuala McKeever will lead a creative writing workshop, Surprised by Loss, at Strand Church, for anyone living with the loss of their spouse of partner. Celebrating and inspired by Lewis’ debating group, the Oxford Socratic Society, a one-off Belfast C.S. Lewis Socratic Debate chaired by BBC’s William Crawley will take place at Union College Chapel, Queens University.
There are lots of events for children too including; C.S. Lewis Mini Narnia Adventure at ‘Jack’s’ old school, Campbell College, a Narnian trail where you can enjoy activities such as lantern making and storytelling – dressing for the outdoors is advised. Wandsworth Community Centre will host a creative animation Sozo workshop where you can create your own fantastic adventure. Framewerk is the location for Imaginary World drama and storytelling workshops. Through storytelling, movement and discussion children will create their own fairy-tale. Returning again this year is the hugely popular Nearly True Tour at Campbell College. Is your tour guide really telling you the truth? Turn up to find out! Kids will love the Narnia Plasticine workshop with Sticky Fingers at Lampost Café where they can recreate Narnian characters and scenes.
Your Lewis adventure can, this year, be taken by bus or bike. Join Lewis expert Sandy Smith as he takes you on a bus journey visiting many locations connected to the writer, some of which had a profound influence on his work. If your Lewis adventure consists of being on two wheels then why not join Belfast Bike Tours at the EastSide Visitor Centre and discover Lewis locations from the comfort of your bike. Interested in a foodie adventure? Then join NI Food Tours at Canteen, Belmont Road, or maybe just pull up a chair for Canteen’s afternoon tea, who knows maybe even Mr Tumnus might join you for a slice of cake. Ever wondered what it was like to be part of ‘The Inklings’ group of Oxford Scholars, which included Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who met and discussed their works in Oxford pubs? Then join The Inklings-inspired beer tasting and literature event at The Stoker’s Halt. Not forgetting the wonderful Fine and Dandy Narnia market at Crescent Arts Centre where you can have an adventure browsing the stalls featuring local food, drink and crafters – to name but a few.
Rachel Kennedy, Festival Director, commented:
“We are delighted to return with the 4th C.S. Lewis Festival. Not only does the Festival celebrate all facets of this literary great but helps festival goers to step into Lewis’ world and reveal how he had a huge cultural significance on the City of Belfast, especially the east of the City, and how it had an impact on him. Our diverse range of festival events and activities aims to encourage everyone from across the city and beyond to come, explore and enjoy Belfast’s connections with this extraordinary man. I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to key funders –Belfast City Council, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Department for Communities, as well as our sponsors, Hewitt & Gilpin, Ulster-Scots Agency and Translink – whose support has been invaluable in making the festival happen.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast City, Alderman Brian Kingston, added:
“On behalf of Belfast City Council I am delighted to attend the launch of the 4th C.S. Lewis Festival in east Belfast today. With a fantastic range of events and activities to suit everyone, the C.S. Lewis Festival is a great way to get to know this literary great and especially his strong connections to our city. Not only did he spend most of his childhood in Belfast but returned throughout his lifetime and often spoke fondly about how the city and surrounding areas impacted on him personally and professionally. I would encourage everyone to support this fantastic festival and congratulate the organisers on yet another inspiring event which is helping to keep C.S. Lewis’ legacy and relationship with Belfast City alive today. I also look forward to returning to celebrate the opening of the C.S. Lewis Square which will be a fantastic addition to the C.S. Lewis experience in the EastSide.”
Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:
“The Arts Council is pleased to support this annual celebration of one of the most important writers of the 20th Century and son of east Belfast. Lewis’ ability to inspire generations globally through his unique storytelling is reflected in the impressive festival programme which offers something for everyone, including a number of free events. I would encourage all to go along and enjoy.”
For full programme details and to book please visit www.eastsidearts.net. Also follow the Festival on Facebook /CSLewisFestival and Twitter @CSLewisFest #CSLFest16.