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Tim McGarry explains why you simply can't miss the debate, discussion and debauchery at this year's Imagine! festival in Belfast. 90% of events are *completely* free – bring your ideas and join in! Book tickets at imaginebelfast.com

The star of RTE’s acclaimed comedy series, The Savage Eye, makes his long awaited return to Belfast. David McSavage is Ireland’s most divisive comedian – he’s funny too! His new live show, A Sacred Cow, is another way at looking at all of the institutions and parts of life in Ireland that shape us. The Church, politicians, alcohol and celebrities, all come under scrutiny with a level of honesty and caustic wit. Not suitable for clergy, politicians, bankers and economists. Is suitable for people that want a good night out!

David McSavage Live: A Sacred Cow

The star of RTE’s acclaimed comedy series, The Savage Eye, makes his long awaited return to Belfast. David McSavage is Ireland’s most divisive comedian – he’s funny too! His new live show, A Sacred Cow, is another way at looking at all of the institutions and parts of life in Ireland that shape us. The Church, politicians, alcohol and celebrities, all come under scrutiny with a level of honesty and caustic wit. Not suitable for clergy, politicians, bankers and economists. Is suitable for people that want a good night out!

March 23, 2017 - March 23, 2017

Dear Festival Friends - Happy New Year. Its been a funny old year but thanks for making 2016 our most successful festival to date. We hope to be back next year so watch this space. Thanks again for your support.

Statement from Pete O'Neill, recent Director - Not to be confused with that other P O'Neill! You may be aware that I'm standing down as the Director of Belfast Comedy Festival having founded the festival in 2010 and managed 5 successful offerings. Having received a number of messages seeking clarification, I would like to put on record a number of points. This years festival has been the most successful in its history with 64 events (16 sold out) and audiences in excess of 6k. Not only are we solvent but governance-wise we are in good shape with a dedicated committee and supportive stakeholders. However I think its the right time for me to bow out in order to hopefully allow a new director to build on this success - I will however stay on the committee. I've enjoyed the experience of working with some extremely talented performers and learned alot - but running a festival of this size is not for the faint hearted! The festival board will examine possible options to replace this unpaid and busy position but I'm leaving to get my life back! I know this appointment won't be easy but perhaps with your help you can work with the committee to provide Belfast with the comedy festival it deserves. I'm immensely proud to have helped develop the largest comedy arts festival in ireland, programming 227 events over 5 festivals with a total audience approaching 25k. Over £500,000 has been generated for the local economy from our average audience spend with in addition approx £100,000 spent on local contractors from our ticket sales and public grants. ACNI has estimated that every £1 of funding generates a return of £3.62 to the local economy. This would suggest that our income of approximately £100k generated over £360,000 for local venues, contractors and suppliers. However despite this record and our ability to attract significant tourists and out of town visitors to Belfast, we haven't been able to attract significant funding from the private and public sectors - in fact we ran our recent fest on an annual budget of £14k which severely limited our ability to further develop it. Although we are grateful to the small grant support from BCC, ACNI & DSD/DfC, we have been unable to secure any core funding and have never been able to access Tourism NI funding (so much for supporting a city of festivals!). Funders specify that you need staff in place in order to be eligible to apply for core funding - but without core funding, we can't possibly employ staff. This Byzantine device effectively prevents relatively new festivals from ever becoming sustainable and reinforces the perception that the current set up is a closed shop. Be that as it may, I think as a volunteer-led festival we made a pretty good job of putting Belfast on the comedy map and I would like to acknowledge the support of our committee members, but particularly the contribution of my comedy comrade Graeme Watson who worked with me and Gerard 'Shep' Sheppard in building the festival, bringing his unrivalled knowledge and support for the local comedy scene to bear. Other committee members such as Stephen Mullan, Don Leeson, Caroline Wilson, Eavan King, Dónal McBrien, Anthony Barrett and Lindsey Mitchell have made important contributions alongside previous members such as Nuala McKeever Julie Hastings, Eleanor Gill, Alan Irwin, and Paul McGarrity I would also like to formally applaud the creative team behind the festival - Al Reddick and Beth Van Sistene at RV - and long term partners such as Pádraig Ó Tuama & Paul Doran at Tenx9; Richard Lavery at Accidental Theatre; Dawn Richardson at Framewerk Gallery, Donal McGilloway at Queens Comedy, Simon Magill now The Mac, Vicki Armstrong at Crazy Cat Comedy and others too numerous to mention. Sean Kelly at CQAF, Christine Osborne O'Toole at BCC, Sonya Whitefield at ACNI and Brian Young at Laganside grants have also been very supportive. Finally my long suffering partner, Tess, deserves applause for putting up with my all consuming 'hobby' and sharing the financial risks that often confronted the festival. I'm probably biased but I think the festival has provided an important showcase for new / emerging comic talent and spurred ACNI to formally recognise comedy as a proper art form. We've also looked at serious issues such as comedy and the conflict, censorship and the support needed by local performers to develop their craft. Most importantly we entertained thousands of comedy fans and had a laugh! So I think I have done my bit. The show will hopefully go on - I just won't be as involved as much........Thanks for reading this rather long post!

about the festival

what’s the craic?

Belfast Comedy Festival ‘Belly Laughs’ was set up by a group of comedy enthusiasts in 2011 with the aims of adding value to Belfast’’s cultural offering, providing a platform for local talent and, most of all, entertaining audiences with a variety of acts at a value accessible to all sections of the community.

legal STATUS

The festival is registered under the Companies Act 2006, as a not for profit private limited company, limited by guarantee (company number N1614137). In addition, we are registered with HMRC as a charity for tax purposes in line with Schedule 6 of the Finance Act 2010 (reference number XT36961) and with the Charity Commission NI (NIC101004).

MANAGEMENT ctte.

We have a board of directors comprising Don Leeson, Caroline Wilson, Donal McBrien, Anthony Barrett and Lindsey Mitchell.

our mission

Our mission is to provide a first class annual comedy festival in Belfast, with a variety and value that allows all sections of the community to benefit.

our objectives

Our objectives are to nurture home grown comic talent; to programme innovative and international comedy events which add value to Belfast’s cultural offering; to promote Belfast as one of Europe’’s most dynamic cities and must-visit destinations; to explore the boundaries of comedy in the city by examining the history and role of humour particularly in regards to peace building and challenging prejudice; and to develop new audiences which will assist the further development and sustainability of venues and comedy clubs in the city.