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Dazzling mix of festivals, feasts and frights await this autumn

With summer gradually drawing to a close and autumn just around the corner, there is a wealth of colourful and diverse events to look forward to across Northern Ireland.

Whether you’re an art afficionado, a music lover, or a food fanatic, you will find an event to whet your appetite.

Whatever your preference, Discover Northern Ireland has rounded up a list of the most unmissable events to wrap up the summer season and help kick start autumn in style.

SEPTEMBER

Belfast Maritime Festival, Belfast: September 4-5

All aboard for a family-friendly adventure along Belfast’s iconic waterfront from Sailortown to Titanic Quarter. Check out an array of visiting vessels, street performers, walking tours, music and dance performances, water-based activities, as well as a food market on the historic Titanic slipways.

Carnival of Colours, Londonderry: September 4-5

A firm favourite in the north-west’s cultural events calendar, this year’s circus, arts and music festival will be making an exciting move to the city centre. Showcasing Londonderry as a must-see destination, the annual bash will feature street theatre shows wowing the audience with their scale and awe-inspiring talents, a groovy hippy disco, a night of music and cabaret at the Nerve Centre (restrictions permitting), street/caricature artists located across the city, and outdoor workshops in circus skills, dance and graffiti art.

Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast: September 2-12

After talking a year off, Belfast’s most dynamic and liveliest arts festival is back with an incredible programme of live music, comedy, literature, theatre and talks and tours. The 21st edition of the annual festival will make greater use of outdoor spaces and use larger venues to facilitate social distancing. Many of the shows will also be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person. To book tickets visit www.cqaf.com

Hit the North Street Art Festival, Belfast: September 5-12

Centred around Belfast’s Union Street and Kent Street, this colourful event is back for its nineth year and has grown to be one of the biggest street art festivals on the island of Ireland. Having transformed the visual landscape across the city centre and Cathedral Quarter with over 300 murals painted to date, this year’s event will feature 50 local and international artists, with an array of styles and techniques on show.

Armagh Food and Cider Festival, County Armagh: September 9-12

Scrumptious food, bubbling cider and a huge serving of top-end gastronomic experiences are all back on the menu in Orchard County. The event promises the finest recipe of outstanding culinary events from sumptuous undercover and outdoor dining experiences, to food masterclasses and demos, cider tastings and tours across a range of stunning locations, including Armagh’s historic Crannagael House, the multi award-winning Blackwell House and the rolling hills of Brookvale Farm. Book now at www.visitarmagh.com

Culture Night Belfast Presents the Garden City, Belfast: September 17-19

Returning with a new Covid-safe format, this event will transform locations like Cathedral Gardens and Writers’ Square into colourful, nature-inspired areas, evoking the feeling of a garden in the heart of the city. www.culturenightbelfast.com

NI Vegan Festival, Belfast: September 18

This event will deliver a vegan market, cooking demonstrations, food garden, children’s entertainment and a simply outstanding vegan food in NI’s largest rooftop venue, CityScape Belfast located atop Belfast’s iconic CastleCourt shopping centre. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey into the world of the purely plant-based or you’re already some way down the road, this festival will be carried out in the spirit of full inclusivity for all.

Snow Water Festival, County Down: September 18-19

A new immersive music and spoken word experience at the Ulster Folk Museum in Cultra, this two-day festival will feature over 35 of Northern Ireland’s foremost artists, with a focus on singer-songwriters and bands who have had international tours cancelled due to the pandemic. The event will also see a series of new collaborations and ‘in the round’ concerts with top musicians who have not performed with each other before. Meanwhile, film buffs will be catered to as NI Screen Archive will showing movies throughout the day. Tours of the Folk Museum by experienced guides, craft demonstrations and story-telling will also make this a unique family-friendly experience.

OCTOBER

Jail of Horror, Belfast: October 18-November 1

One of the most fearsome events on the calendar, the Jail of Horror takes one of Belfast’s most haunted buildings, Crumlin Road Gaol, and opens its cells for a spine-chilling, nerve-shredding experience. Unwitting visitors will come face to face with scary inmates, killer clowns, witches and other ghastly ghouls. Meanwhile, the Paranormal Investigation tour takes visitors on a search for the spirits which many people believe still haunt the building. You will assist paranormal experts by conducting various experiments in the most haunted locations of the jail, including the tunnel, infirmary, boiler room and hanging cell. Not for the faint of heart! www.crumlinroadgaol.com

Ultimate Strongman World Championship III, Belfast: October 29-31

Taking place for the first time in Northern Ireland, in Crumlin Road Gaol, this family-friendly event for fans of all ages will showcase the biggest legends in strongman sport from around the world alongside a programme of entertainment. The event will be filmed for TV, being shown around the world and will be streamed live on our Facebook page.

The City of Derry International Choir Festival: October 20-24

The only international choir festival held in the UK, this event was conceived as a joyous celebration of all that choral singing has to offer. Its activities include concerts by world-renowned vocal groups, competitions for choirs, workshops and educational events for singers and conductors, community concerts and choral trails in landmark locations across the city and the surrounding area. And, following the success of the festival’s digital offer in 2020, the organisers will be offering a full programme for online audiences, accessible through Facebook, YouTube and the festival website. www.derrychoirfest.com

Belfast International Arts Festival, Belfast: October 6-November 7

Back for its 59th edition, Northern Ireland’s largest contemporary arts festival will offer an extensive programme of both live performances and a selection of online events that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. Featuring the best in theatre, dance and music performances, the festival continues to explore contemporary matters of interest to audiences such as gender equality, multi-culturalism, representation, the climate crisis, and democracy. The full programme is expected to be announced later this month.

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