Northern Ireland

Sir Kenneth Branagh speaks out over Northern Ireland arts cuts

Sir Kenneth Branagh
Image caption Sir Kenneth Branagh said he hoped the Belfast Festival could be secured

Belfast-born actor and director Sir Kenneth Branagh has spoken out against cuts to the arts in Northern Ireland.

He said the Belfast Festival at Queen's, which has lost much of its funding, made an "enormous difference to the cultural landscape".

He described the move as "disappointing and worrying" and said he hoped the festival's future could be secured.

He is visiting Belfast to host a special charity premiere of his latest movie Cinderella.

'Dazzling'

More than 360 fans got to watch the film on Sunday afternoon before it opens in UK cinemas later this week.

The proceeds of the premiere will go to two organisations nominated by the actor - the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (Nicva) and Into Film, a charity for young people.

Image caption More than 360 people attended the Cinderella premiere in Belfast on Sunday afternoon, with many young film fans dressing up for the occasion

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland, Sir Kenneth spoke about the cutbacks to the arts, and the funding crisis facing the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

"Queen's I think has always been varied and interesting, often dazzling in what it presents," he said.

'Lifeblood of the city'

"I think it's a disappointment and it's worrying and I hope that something can be done to secure the future of the festival."

The actor has been both a participant and a spectator at previous Belfast festivals.

"I know what that festival does and what these kind of festivals can do. I think is remarkable not just for presenting interesting work but also in the sense of showing another part of the lifeblood of the city and the heartbeat of the city creatively."

Image caption Sir Kenneth Branagh spoke to BBC Northern Ireland's arts correspondent Maggie Taggart ahead of the premiere

The actor also said he "would love" to do more work in Northern Ireland.

"I'm involved in Northern Ireland Screen and have been for a long time so I keep my eyes open and ears to the ground," he said.

"But I'd love to come back and do something myself. It's about time, so I'm in conversation and I hope it's going to happen."

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