Arts festival helps Northern Ireland's Olympic 2012 celebrations

Jude Law (r) and Jeremy Gilley (l) Jude Law (r) and Jeremy Gilley (l) will join in with the celebrations in Northern Ireland

A open-air pop concert and an opera about Noah and the Flood may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of the 2012 Olympics.

Nonetheless, both events will be staged in Northern Ireland next year to mark the global sports event.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced its plans for the London 2012 Festival, a 12 week celebration of the arts, running parallel to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the capital.

The event is the finale of the four year Cultural Olympiad project and intends to celebrate excellence in the arts, as the world's leading athletes take to track and field.

'Astonishing'

"Some of the reaction in Northern Ireland has been from the fact that the sporting games cannot take place here," said Cian Smyth from the Arts Council.

"But what can take place here is our live sites in front of Belfast's City Hall, where there will be thousands of people able to witnesses the sports.

"Alongside that we will have some of the best artists in the world on the stage, while the best athletes are on track and field."

London 2012 - Begin your journey here

London view

The festival begins on 21 June with an open air concert at the former army barracks at Ebrington in Londonderry.

The event will be fronted by actors Jude Law and Jeremy Gilley and will feature an "astonishing line up of bands", according to organiser Ruth McKenzie. Headline acts are expected to include Massive Attack.

"We will announce more next year," she added.

A cast of 500 acrobats and aerial dancers will descend on the Titanic slipway in Belfast on 30 June.

There will also be a series of commissions involving a variety of composers from Northern Ireland working on five operas at the Mac in Belfast from 28 June to 30 June.

In August, Belfast Zoo will provide the backdrop for an opera about Noah and the Flood.

Enniskillen in County Fermanagh will stage a festival dedicated to the works of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett from 24 to 27 August which will include a UK debut performance of Krapp's Last Tape by New York Theatre director Robert Wilson.

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