Surprised by Joy: C.S. Lewis Festival 2017 launches

From 18th - 22nd November the fifth annual C.S. Lewis Festival will celebrate the impact and legacy of one of the world’s literary greats - C.S. Lewis. At this year’s festival everyone is invited to be ‘Surprised by Joy,’ a theme taken from C.S. Lewis’s works of the same name.

Through a series of events and activities including talks, film, theatre, arts, crafts, readings, discussions, music, workshops, exhibitions, tours and children’s activities; the festival will showcase Lewis’s diverse works, his legacy and especially his strong connections to his childhood home of east Belfast.With a full festival programme, highlights for this year include:

A joyous family-friendly, fun programme featuring storytelling, crafts, music, yoga, art and film screenings. The little ones will enjoy Narnia storytelling at Sydenham Methodist Church, screenings of films UP, A Monster Calls or an illustration workshop at Strand Arts Centre.  Also at the Strand Arts Centre, artist Deirdre Robb will reveal how the ‘Worry Tree’ can provide positive thinking. Little folk under 6 years old can explore music and movement with Kyle Reily at Strand Presbyterian Church.  Create your own fantastical creature, like C.S. Lewis and his brother once did as children, at EastSide Visitor Centre or pop into the Narnia-themed Fine and Dandy market at Crescent Arts Centre.

Open yourself to the joy of writing and literature through a range of workshops and conversations. Take part in a special book club discussion at EastSide Visitor Centre on Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Join Belfast-based writer Jan Carson and London-based poet Sarah Hesketh at EastSide Visitor Centre as they read and discuss their work on people with dementia. The Squat Pen welcomes everyone to their evening of words and music at St Martin’s Church or learn to write your own poem with Andy Eaton at Strand Presbyterian Church.

Bring your voice to Hops and Glory, an evening of beer and hymns at the Maple Leaf Social Club. Proceeds from the evening will go towards supporting the work of The Larder food bank at St. Christopher's Church. Make sure to check out the ‘Surprised By’ series of mini gigs which will showcase some of Belfast’s best loved and talented musicians Anthony Toner, Ursula Burns and Alana Henderson.

Discover C.S. Lewis’s east Belfast and Belfast connections via a series of walks and tours including a tour of Belfast City Cemetery where many of Lewis’s family are buried and an exploration of his childhood landscapes. Make joyous discoveries on the east Belfast Street Art Walking Tour and Urban Bee Keeping Workshop at The Bank, Holywood Arches, home to the Belfast Bankers Artist Collective.

Enjoy an exciting programme of theatre, dance and visual arts including a Ceili night at Strand Presbyterian Church, Searchlight Theatre Company’s award-winning production of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters at Willowfield Presbyterian Church or the haunting tales of the festive season in Christmas Gothic in the incredibly atmospheric surroundings of St. Martin’s Church, Ballymacarrett. Throughout the festival, enjoy exhibitions by Colin McGookin at EastSide Gallery and Ciaran Harper at ArtisAnn Gallery.

This year the C.S. Lewis Festival includes a fantastic poetry competition open to everyone. Entrants are invited to write a very short poem, based on the festival theme ‘Surprised by Joy’ about what surprises them about east Belfast, in less than 140 characters. Fantastic prizes for winners and runners up in primary, secondary and adult categories will be awarded at a special event in December in W5 who are sponsors of the competition along with Hewitt & Gilpin Solicitors and Arts & Business NI.  Closing date is Friday 24th November at 5pm. Plus, look out for special, interactive poetry mini-workshops in residential care facilities, libraries and community groups.

Rachel Kennedy, Festival Director, EastSide Arts commented:

“We are delighted to return with the 5th C.S. Lewis Festival. With the festival theme Surprised by Joy’, our Curator Jan Carson has created a joyful, diverse and inclusive programme which celebrate all facets of this literary great.  Festival goers will step into Lewis’s world to explore his imagination, legacy and huge cultural significance on the City of Belfast, especially the east of the City, and how it had an impact on him. We  invite everyone, from across east Belfast and beyond, to not only enjoy the range of festival events and activities taking place across five days, but to understand the joy the city, and surrounding area, brought to C.S. Lewis and  continues to bring to artists living here today. I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to our Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, funders Belfast City Council and Arts & Business NI and sponsors, Hewitt & Gilpin, Translink, William Collins, Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park, and W5. Their support has been invaluable in making the festival happen.”

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

"The Arts Council is delighted to support the C.S. Lewis Festival through National Lottery and public funding.  The Festival, now in its fifth year, celebrates the life and work of one of the most important writers of the 20th Century.  Lewis’s ability to inspire generations globally through his unique storytelling is reflected in the terrific festival programme which offers something for everyone and I would encourage all to go along.”

Alderman Tom Haire, High Sheriff of Belfast City, added:

“Belfast City Council is so proud to support the C.S. Lewis Festival. It’s innovative, it’s joyful, it’s inclusive and it’s sharing the wonderful legacy of one of our most famous and celebrated authors.  Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the festival team, the contributing artists and of course a huge body of passionate volunteers, east Belfast has another cultural gem to delight in – and to share with our ever growing numbers of visitors.  As we finalise our bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023 this week, we’re mindful that 2023 will be the 60th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ passing – and we hope to be able to mark that in a very special way in partnership with the festival as part of our programme.”

For full festival programme details, more information on the poetry competition and to book festival tickets visit

Follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter #CSLFest17