The 2013 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s opened today (Thursday 17th October) with a reveal of the largest land-art portrait in the UK and Ireland. Spanning 11 acres of land in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter,Wish is the portrait of an anonymous Belfast child which has been created by internationally acclaimed Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada in partnership with the City and its people. Using only natural materials and cutting edge satellite technology the final piece represents the largest piece the artist has ever created and will be free for all to view throughout the Festival.
For the next eleven days the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will present over 70 different performances in venues in the North, South, East and West of the City. Director, Richard Wakely is thrilled to be opening with such a land-mark piece of work, “To present a piece of this quality and magnitude is staggering and provides a unique way to open this year’s Festival. It is a free event that has enabled us to work closely with local businesses and volunteers and it is their commitment that has made it happen. We have 11 days of entertainment on offer throughout Belfast from 24 different countries with theatre, dance, visual arts, film and music filling spaces in all corners of the city. It is our Wish that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy it.”
Wish has been created in close partnership with the local community. Local firms such as McLaughlin&Harvey, PT McWilliams and Lagan Construction Group provided materials, tools, machinery, staff and soil. Sand was provided by Tobermore and lime stone by Kilwaughter Lime -all free of charge. The land was donated by the Titanic Quarter Limited , the project headquarters was provided by The Dock Café, the viewing platforms have been provide free of charge by W5, Belfast Metropolitan College, and Titanic Belfast. Plus, a core team worked alongside a host of community volunteers from groups such as NOW to provide hundreds of hours of their time to make it happen. Other support was provided by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Titanic Foundation Limited and a major contribution from TOPCON who provided the GPS poles, technical support and training.
Artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada has produced similar pieces all over the world but is especially connected to his latest and largest project in Belfast, “I have created work in the States and all over Europe but this piece in Belfast has been a different experience for me. The people have been overwhelming in their support and belief in the concept. When I first started on this work it was only five acres but it grew both emotionally and physically. Now, at 11 acres, it is my largest piece and I believe this magnitude is a fitting tribute to a city which has so much positivity to offer.”
Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland reflects on the community nature of this opening event, “It’s encouraging to see so many people, businesses and organisations who have volunteered their time and resources to be part of this collaborative and ambitious land art project. It is very fitting that a project which encouraged participation in the arts and is accessible to all opens this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s.”
Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council for Northern Ireland reflects on the magnitude of the project,” The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is a truly international celebration bringing together arts and creativity from across the world under one cultural umbrella. Wish is an inspirational and ambitious piece of public art that combines strong community spirit with contemporary arts practice – a union which is reflected throughout this year’s festival programme. It is a most fitting opening event.”
The 2013 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s would not be possible without the continuing support of various public and private sponsors, including Ulster Bank, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the EU, Queen’s University Belfast and the British Council. Plus, the many venues, performers and partner organisations whose commitment and passion bring the arts to life for all to enjoy.
The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s runs from 17th – 27th October at venues all over the city and Wish can be viewed free of charge from various specified locations within the Titanic Quarter throughout the Festival. To find out more and book tickets for any event visit www.belfastfestival.com or call box office on 02890 971197.