Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Michael Barnes, former Director of Queen’s Festival

(Published in The Stage Friday 16 May 2008)

Michael Barnes, the longest-serving director of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, has died at the age of 76.

A senior lecturer in modern history at the time, Barnes assumed control of the annual event in 1973 after the departure of founder Michael Emmerson and remained in the position until 1994.

It was Barnes who transformed the festival into a major fixture in Northern Ireland’s arts calendar, expanding its size and scale to give it an internationally focused dimension. During his two decade-long tenure he brought a host of high-profile performers and ensembles to the region for the first time, among them the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Moscow State Ballet.

Between 1980 and 1994 Barnes was also artistic director of Belfast’s Grand Opera House, overseeing two major refurbishments of the venue as a result of significant bomb damage.

Arts Council chairman Rosemary Kelly said Barnes’ “presence was particularly felt during some of the city’s darkest times. We will still reap the benefit of his legacy now that Belfast is routinely included as part of the touring circuit for international artists and entertainers”.

(Details were also published in the Belfast Newsletter).




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