20/02/2024

'The Walk' Announced For Belfast 2024 Programme

A world-renowned creative project, 'The Walk' has been announced as the latest event as part of Belfast City Council's 'Belfast 2024' programme.

The acclaimed production, featuring Little Amal, a giant puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, will be a signature event in the city's biggest ever creative and cultural celebration, with almost 200 events, workshops and activities taking place across Belfast between March and December this year.

Belfast City Council is investing £5.9 million into Belfast 2024, supporting jobs in the creative sector, creating new opportunities for residents to enjoy and participate in the arts, and showcasing the city as a global destination for culture, through its three key themes of People, Place and Planet.

Since Little Amal's creation in 2021, she has travelled over 9,000 km across 15 countries and been welcomed by over two million people and tens of millions online, through creative events led by artists and local communities. The 12-foot-tall artwork represents all children fleeing war, violence and persecution and has become an international symbol of compassion and human rights.

Presented by The Walk Productions, Little Amal will arrive in Belfast on Thursday 16 May for the first leg of a unique all-island collaboration, delivered in partnership with Arts Ekta and Belfast-born creative director Des Kennedy. She will then travel across the border and onto Dublin for the finale to her visit.

During three days of activities in Belfast, focusing on diversity and inclusion, visitors will be able to see and meet Little Amal at a series of free events. Details of how to book tickets will be released in the coming weeks.

She will arrive by boat along the River Lagan for a spectacular evening opening event along the city's Maritime Mile. A procession of music and movement will lead Little Amal to Titanic Slipways where she will form part of an outdoor theatre performance, taking the audience on a time-travelling journey through Belfast's history, brought to life by a cast of up to 500 professional and community performers and featuring original music and dance choreography.

On Friday 17 May, Little Amal will be welcomed at a street party in Writers' Square, with entertainment from drummers and street performers. A celestial-themed procession will mark the transition from night to day as she makes her way to St Anne's Cathedral, where she will join community choirs and diverse musicians for an immersive evening of music and song, with the united message of hope. Local artists will work with communities to create a handmade patchwork quilt, featuring over 100 individual designs, which will be gifted to Little Amal before she spends the night in the cathedral.

Then, on Saturday 18 May, Little Amal will take part in a unique Lord Mayor's Day event at City Hall, hosted by Councillor Ryan Murphy. Families can enjoy free fun and games on the lawns, while guests from new and migrant communities will be invited to meet with Little Amal, alongside users from the Lord Mayor's four civic charities, at a 'Big Lunch' event, hosted in partnership with Eden Project Communities NI, with music from local asylum and refugee groups.

Little Amal will then walk along some of Belfast's peace walls, where she will view murals and meet with schoolchildren from both communities. She will also enjoy a short piece of theatre presented by young people, highlighting Belfast's journey and how far our city has come.
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"What a spectacular event for Belfast to host in what is shaping up to be an amazing year for culture and arts in our city, with so much for communities and visitors to see, do and get involved with," said Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy.

"Little Amal has become a beacon of hope, delivering a strong message of compassion and empathy in today's divided world, so we are delighted to bring her 'walk' to Belfast, a city that is becoming ever diverse and multi-cultural. Arts Ekta have a wealth of experience in working with communities to deliver spectacle events built upon inclusion and cultural expression, so I can't wait to show Little Amal the warmth of our Belfast welcome as she shares her story with our residents and visitors to Belfast."

'The Walk' is one of 20+ commissions planned during Belfast 2024, which builds upon the council's existing support for culture and arts and invites citizens to get creative, through a mix of new commissions and community-led programmes, all reflecting the city's diversity and vibrancy.

Like the wider programme, preparations for Little Amal's visit will be further shaped by community input in the run-up to her arrival in Belfast.

"We are delighted to be collaborating with Belfast City Council and The Walk Productions to welcome Little Amal as part of Belfast 2024," said Nisha Tandon OBE, Chief Executive of ArtsEkta. "This transformative arts project will underpin Belfast's positioning as a 'City of Sanctuary' and demonstrate our collective community spirit. Over the coming months, we will lead a creative programme, developed by theatre director Des Kennedy and our city's leading artists, and culminating in a four-day festival of art across Belfast in May.

"We will be inviting residents from all parts of the city to get involved in welcoming Little Amal with a whole range of free workshop programmes to create artwork, props, dance performances, music and costumes. The full programme of events, opportunities to get involved and ticket booking info will be unveiled in the coming weeks."

Little Amal has travelled to 160 towns and cities in 15 countries and won a range of awards, including being named New York's No. 1 Art Event by Time Out magazine in 2022.

"We are so excited to bring Little Amal to the island of Ireland during this special year for Belfast and can't wait to see her welcomed by the city's communities and provide new opportunities to showcase Belfast's growing diversity," said Amir Nizar Zubai, Artistic Director with The Walk Productions.

"When Amal walks through a city, she sees it with fresh eyes - the eyes of a child, full of wonder. When she thinks of Belfast and Dublin and their history and rich connections, these fresh and naive eyes offer an opportunity to see things that might otherwise go unseen."

Today's announcement follows on from information events held across the city during February for residents to hear more about how to get involved in Belfast 2024 projects and activities. A Belfast 2024 open day will also take place at 2 Royal Avenue in Belfast city centre on Thursday 29 February, 2pm-7pm.

Residents can sign up to the Belfast 2024 mailing list at a dedicated website - belfast2024.co.uk - or follow new Belfast 2024 social media channels on Facebook (@belfast2024) and Instagram (@belfast2024) for the latest info on projects and initiatives.

For more details of the Belfast 2024 programme, visit belfast2024.co.uk


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