From big-screen releases to The Boss hitting Belfast, here’s everything to get excited about in 2024
January 6, 2024
Before that, Directioners have the sold-out Niall Horan shows to look forward to on February 20 and 21 at the SSE Arena. The Mullingar man hasn’t been on the road since 2018, and since these dates launch his world tour, they promise to be special ones.
The Jonas Brothers, meanwhile, play their first ever Northern Irish gig on June 20 at the SSE Arena — yes, it’s hard to believe they’ve never made it here before.
Belsonic’s line-up this year is rather stellar. Take That, Olly Murs, Becky Hill, Sting, Blondie and more will be rocking out in Ormeau Park on various dates throughout June. We can only hope for the good weather.
Everyone’s favourite crooner, Daniel O’Donnell, comes to the Millennium Forum on May 10. The consummate showman is sure to have his fans out in force. Wee Daniel, sure what’s not to love?
What promises to be one of the most emotional gigs of the year is Girls Aloud on May 20 at the SSE Arena. No doubt they will pay tribute to bandmate Sarah Harding, who passed away from breast cancer in 2021. Celebrating their 21st anniversary, expect the band to play their back catalogue of absolute bangers.
Blink 182 had to reschedule their sold-out September 2023 show at the SSE Arena due to bandmate Travis Barker’s “urgent family matter”. They are now playing on August 26 in what we hope is a gig that will make up for last year’s disappointment.
Arts and culture
The always fabulous Out to Lunch Arts Festival brings much-needed cheer to the grey January days. Taking place from the 6-28, a whole plethora of performances, comedians, authors, concerts and talks promise to lift the spirits and open the mind.
Legendary actor David Suchet brings his aptly titled show Poirot And More to the Grand Opera House on February 12. Expect chat about the titular Belgian detective and reflections on his stellar acting career.
Strictly fans are in for a treat courtesy of fabulous dancer Johannes Radebe, whose show House of JoJo enlivens the Grand Opera House from April 29-March 1. Expect extravagant costumes, glitz galore and fancy footwork to wow.
Paddy Raff continues to make us laugh with his bang-on observations on NI and its characters. His latest show, Gimme A Minute!, comes to the Waterfront Hall on April 13.
Celebrating the very best of circus, new circus and street theatre, the Festival of Fools returns to Belfast from May 4-6. Completely free to attend and with acts from around the world, this festival is a jewel in the arts crown.
Part of the NI Opera Salon Series, Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered brings the songs of the golden age of musicals to the stage of The Playhouse, Derry, on May 25. Featuring standards by George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim and with fully costumed singers, this sounds like a sing-along sensation.
If you’re not familiar with the play Teechers by John Godber, then this is a wrong that needs to be righted. Running at The MAC from January 25 to February 10, it tells the story (using the play within a play device) of a group of comprehensive school kids, their relationship with idealistic new teacher Mr Nixon, and the impact drama and education can have on young lives. Just brilliant.
Project Children, presented at The Lyric from April 24 to May 5, looks at the scheme that saw 23,000 Catholic and Protestant children travel to the US during the Troubles. Created by Belfast playwright Fionnuala Kennedy, using interviews with those who went on the programme and those who hosted, this promises to be an emotional look back at an experience that helped so many children and young people.
The Woman In Black comes to the Grand Opera House from May 13-18 and is not for the faint-hearted. For more than 33 years this theatrical thriller has been giving audiences the heebie-jeebies as it examines a curse that haunts Eel Marsh House.
Belts are always tighter in the new year, so get a little help with the food budget and do it quickly with Mitch Lane’s Feed Your Family For A Fiver: In Under 30 Minutes (HarperCollins), released on January 18. The follow-up to his bestseller Feed Your Family For A Fiver, this book boasts new recipes that can be made in a jiffy.
The buzz about Gub (Corsair), Scott McKendry’s debut book of poetry, suggests that this might be a future classic. Described by the publisher as “rooted in the language of working-class Belfast”, the poems jump through different eras and feature an eclectic roster of subjects which attempt to grab a handle on the slippery fish that is our wee corner of the world. We’re excited for this. Gub is released on February 2.
Travelling: On The Path of Joni Mitchell (HarperCollins) sees seasoned music journalist Ann Powers look at the life of the accomplished, intriguing and ultimately enigmatic musician. Using interviews with her peers and meticulous research, Powers brings the reader on a biographical journey with Mitchell in an attempt to clear the clouds and reveal the artist.
The “someone on the island is a murderer” premise isn’t a new one, but coupled with the dystopian backdrop created by Stuart Turton, The Last Murder At The End Of The World sounds intriguing, to say the least. The island is surrounded by a fog that has finished off humankind. All that is left is its 122 inhabitants and three scientists there to study them. Then one of the scientists is killed and the security system has wiped everyone on the island’s memory, so nobody knows whodunnit. And they only have 92 hours to solve the murder before the fog engulfs the island, finishing them all off. Deliciously dark. Released on March 28.
The newest Sheila O’Flanagan release, The Honeymoon Affair (Headline Review), is released on April 24. Izzy is on honeymoon solo, but the entrance of writer Charles Miller and the sparks between them makes her wonder if things could be looking up. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Charles’s ex-wife is wondering if a reconciliation might be on the cards.
Following on from Water, the second in a planned quartet of short novels, Earth (Transworld) by John Boyne does not sound like an easy read. It centres on the trial of two professional footballers accused of sexual assault, implicated by a trail of horrible text messages. One of the accused, Evan Keogh, knows that he is living a lie and knows that what happened that night could threaten everything. But as he grapples with the results of his actions, he examines whether the life he’s living is the one he wanted. Released on May 2.
Stephen King’s newest book, You Like It Darker (Hodder & Stoughton), comes in the form of 12 new short stories that go dark, both literally and metaphorically. A master of the genre, if not the master, the stories feature a psychic flash, a Vietnam vet taking on a job they didn’t expect and even a sequel to Cujo — if you weren’t still scared witless from that tale. You Like It Darker is released on May 21.
If you’re over the disappointment of the Rugby World Cup (sob, we’re not sure we are), get ready to cheer Ireland on when the Six Nations returns on February 2. We face-off against France on that date and are silently hoping for a bit more success in this tournament.
The biggest sporting events of 2024 are, of course, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are taking place in Paris this summer. It’s been 100 years since the City of Light last hosted, so expect more than a sprinkling of French style and joie de vivre to be injected into proceedings. Break dancing (officially referred to as Breaking) is one of the four new sports to join the Olympic roster. The competition will see 16 B-boys and B-girls facing off in each category in what promises to be some epic solo battles. The Olympics run from July 26 to August 11, with the Paralympics taking centre stage from August 28 to September 8.
The Uefa Euro 2024 tournament takes place in various locations across Germany from June 14 to July 14. The Germans, three-time previous winners, will surely be out for glory on home turf, but with the quality of European teams at an all-time high, this could be a thrilling event.
Want to take part rather than spectate? Hillsborough Castle & Gardens Running Festival takes place on July 28 and the Belfast City Marathon is slated for May 5 — plenty of time to get the running shoes on and prepare to compete.
Yes, we know we are jumping ahead by telling you The Open returns to Portrush in 2025, but it’s with good reason. The ballot for tickets opens in summer 2024 and if you join The Open’s free membership programme, The One Club, you’ll be kept informed of when you can apply. We wouldn’t want you to miss out.
Get in, loser! We’re not quite sure how to feel about the Mean Girls reboot coming on January 19. This isn’t quite a straight remake of the original, but instead a big-screen imagining of Mean Girls: The Musical. So, while the Plastics are back, as well as all our favourite characters played by a whole new cast, there’s also songs. Could be so fetch?
Does bustin’ make you feel good? If the answer to this question is a definitive yes, then get excited for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, released on March 29.
The follow-up to Afterlife sees the young ’busters from the first movie (and the ageless Paul Rudd) hit New York, with the iconic firehouse from the originals making an appearance. Details on the plot have been sketchy, but it seems this new crew has to team up with the old one (hello, Bill Murray) to help defeat a malevolent force that’s frozen the city solid in the middle of July.
The premise of comedy movie If (release date TBC but expected in May) is an intriguing one. Written, directed and featuring John Krasinski, it tells the tale of a girl who can see abandoned imaginary friends.
All the familiar emotions from Inside Out return in Inside Out: 2 (released on June 14), but this time we get a peek inside a teenage Riley’s head. You can expect plenty of new feelings to make an appearance, with anxiety the first to show up in the trailer.
Listen, we know that when it comes to sequels, it’s usually a case of diminishing returns. But the nonsensical power of the Minions still has us excited for Despicable Me 4 (released on July 3). The adorable yellow lads are back working for Gru, and we can imagine their evil schemes will go right to plan…
In the autumn, Joker: Folie à Deux (due for release on October 4) promises to get bums into cinema seats. Not least because Lady Gaga plays Harley Quinn opposite Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. This time the movie will be a musical, a departure from the first, but one that, in the hands of director Todd Phillips, could make it a masterpiece.
Gladiator 2. Yes, you read that right. Some 20-odd years after the original, this long-gestated sequel from Ridley Scott is slated to make an appearance in November, although its exact release date is yet to be confirmed. Paul Mescal will play Lucius, nephew of original baddie Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix), while other cast members are rumoured to include Barry Keoghan, Denzel Washington, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi and Pedro Pascal. Thumbs up or thumbs down? Well, with that cast, we’d hope it’s thumbs up.