Bounce! Festival beating the drum for deaf and disabled artists

By August 30, 2013Creative Industries, Newsroom

The second Belfast disability and deaf arts festival bounces into The Grand Opera House this weekend (Friday, August 30 until Sunday September 1) with an entertaining and thought-provoking programme of events.

The Bounce! Festival weekender got off to a noisy start yeserday (August 29) when members of the public were invited to beat Ireland’s biggest drum at Belfast City Hall as part of the launch activities, signalling the start of an action-packed three days of superb theatre, comedy, music, dance, performance poetry, exhibitions and workshops.

Bounce Curator, Chris Ledger, Chief Executive of the Arts and Disability Forum, said: “We are very excited about the programme and I’m delighted that the Grand Opera House has agreed to be our partner for the festival. People from England, Scotland and even as far away as Mali and Peru have been in contact to say they want to come to Belfast to enjoy the festival. The Bounce! programme has something for everyone.

One of the festival highlights is ‘Signs of a Diva’ by Caroline Parker in the Baby Grand Studio on Saturday, August 31 at 7pm. Caroline, who was recently awarded the MBE, performed with Beverley Knight at last year’s Paralympics Opening Ceremony. The show has seamless integrated access, including audio description for visually impaired people and captioning and sign language for deaf people.

Caroline will also run a sign song workshop from 3-6pm at the Shakespeare Room in the Grand Opera House for fluent BSL (British Sign Language) users over 18.

Chris Ledger said: “Caroline Parker is one of the leading practitioners of sign song, which is a beautiful art form that moves beyond BSL interpretation to become the physical embodiment of a song. Caroline makes sign language accessible to hearing people and music accessible to deaf people. The show is a virtuoso performance that combines expressive sign language with mime and dance and includes some famous torch songs. This piece is being staged by Graeae, the world’s longest established disability arts company – and it’s camp as anything!”

Other highlights include ‘The Wheelchair on My Face’, a fascinating piece of memoir, theatre and stand-up comedy, written and performed by Sonya Kelly about her experience of growing up with sight impairment in the Republic of Ireland. Like Diva, this piece will have captioning, audio description and BSL. It won the Scotsman Fringe First Award at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is directed by Gina Moxley of Fishamble: the New Play Company, an award winning company dedicated to the discovery and development of new work. The Wheelchair on My Face takes place in the Baby Grand Studio on August 30th at 7pm.

There’s plenty of music to enjoy during Bounce!  including a concert by jazz singer Victoria Geelan accompanied by harpist Joleen McLaughlin of the Henry Girls. Her show at the Baby Grand Studio on August 30 from 8.30pm will include interpretations of classics from Prince to Portishead performed in English, French and Spanish.

On Saturday, August 31st from 8.30pm at the Baby Grand Studio, there’s another musical treat in store, with music from singer songwriters Pat Dam Smyth and Catherine Hatt, plus performance poetry from Dan Eggs.

Fresh back in Northern Ireland from UK and RoI touring, Pat Dam Smyth will play music that feels cathartic and deeply personal, with lyrics that recount confusing experiences and blurred visions, while Catherine Hatt will perform her contemporary folk songs, variously described as ‘witty’ and ‘delightful’ and ‘haunting’. Sandwiched between them is Dan Eggs, master of alliteration and quite simply one of the funniest and most entertaining performance poets on the circuit. The evening will be MC’d by Julie McNamara, singer, comic and South Bank award winning theatre director.

Chris Ledger added: “When Julie McNamara heard about the festival, she immediately said she wanted to come over to Belfast and be part of it. She is talented and funny and is sure to be a great host for the evening.”

Other events include:

  • A double bill in the Baby Grand Studio on Sunday, September 1 from 7.30pm featuring dynamic physical theatre and dance from Blue Chevvy (Kids in Control’s Adult Ensemble) and music from the award-winning Open Arts Community Choir, with an eclectic mix of Gospel, Pop, Musicals, Classical, Irish/Celtic and World Music.
  • ‘Madness in Mind’ a photographic exhibition reflecting bipolar experience, by Karen Forrester at the ADF Gallery in Royal Avenue from August 30th to September 20th.
  • Digital Film-making workshop by Ben Jones at the Digital Arts Studios on August 30th, 10am-5pm
  • Comix Workshop with Andy Luke and Stephen Downey at the Grand Opera House, Shakespeare Room on August 31st from 1-4pm
  • Creative Writing Workshop on September 1st in the Shakespeare Room from 1-4pm, with poet and short story writer, Monica Corish, who was shortlisted for the Hennessy Literature Prize last year.

For more information about the Bounce! Festival Weekender go to, email or call 028 9023 9450. For social networking look at the Bounce Facebook page, which has full event listings Or use  #BounceArts FestivalWeekender on Twitter.