1st May 2019 in Arts

On Thursday night, Belfast Cathedral throws open its doors for the epic opening event of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

The CQ Bazaar will see the ancient cathedral transformed into an eclectic and colourful bazaar with stalls featuring everything from vintage fashion, retro furniture and stylish jewellery, to wares from local artists, designers, makers and food producers.

There will be live music performances from CQAF Artist in Residence DANI, as well as Hannah McPhillimy and a Johnny Cash tribute show from Junior Johnson, and you can even enjoy a tipple, as the Sunflower Bar will be running the bar downstairs in the Cathedral’s Crypt once again.

Posted by Little Fox Events on Friday, 19 April 2019

Proudly supported by the CQAF and the Cathedral Quarter BID, the Bazaar is the brainchild of Caroline Baker – a woman whose creative career has taken her from making music to managing gigs and festivals events, to running her own events and even setting up a sustainable clothes company.
Originally from Dublin, she describes herself as a “blow in” to Belfast, and while she lives in the east of the city with her partner and their two-year-old son, her heart very much lies in the Cathedral Quarter.

Caroline’s partner Andy McHugh is the co-founder of Boom Clap Play design studio and he also owns the Rudimentary Records label and is one of the driving forces behind the return of CQ Radio to this year’s CQAF (more on that later!). When she made the move with him up to Belfast, the Cathedral Quarter was very much her introduction to the city.

“I used to be a music booker,” explains Caroline, “I used to be a booking agent for the band Villagers and a few other smaller acts down south. So, I wanted to continue [working] with music somehow, so I just approached Sean [Kelly, CQAF Festival Director] when I came up here.”

Caroline proved to be a good fit for the festival and for the past four years has worked with CQAF as a venue manager, overseeing some of the Festival’s gigs and helping them to run smoothly.

It wasn’t long before her heart was captured by this creative corner of Belfast. “My friend Sarah Jones manages the Black Box so it just seems to be this nice little hub here. And then the Sunflower’s an amazing pub and it’s just on the outskirts but still in the Cathedral Quarter. I just love all those nice little places that are arty without being pretentious.”

The Sunflower was the natural choice of summer venue when she created The Belfast Flea. The popular monthly flea market takes place in the Bar and its courtyard on the last Sunday of every month during the summer months (it moves indoors at The Black Box during the colder months), and May 2019 sees it celebrating its fifth birthday.

It has gone from strength to strength, to the extent that Caroline has expanded her events offering and set up a company to manage them. In fact, it was the Cathedral Quarter’s most iconic venue that inspired her to expand her offering outside of the Flea.

“I had gone to an events evening in St Anne’s Cathedral, Gareth from the Cathedral Quarter BID actually invited me to that. Seeing that space, I thought ‘oh my goodness…’ even now, I’m still thinking of ideas for music, gigs and festivals there! But it just sparked my imagination and they were talking about doing a Christmas event, so I put my hand up and said ‘Hi – I can do markets!’” Inspired by the Dean’s Black Santa collection, Caroline and the Cathedral team came up with the Black Santa Christmas Bazaar.

“It was the biggest market I had done. I just thought it would be really nice to do something to raise money for Black Santa and do something nice and buzzy in Belfast.” The continued success and growth potential of the Flea, coupled with plans for more Bazaars in the Cathedral has led to the creation of Little Fox Events.

“This was the year for me to expand. Flea is ready to expand. We’re hoping to team up with Mike’s Fancy Cheese, so we’re talking possibly about doing a few bigger summer events, summer parties – an outdoor event, weather dependent, that would kind of mix the Flea and food together.”

Demand is growing for events with Caroline’s creative touch. She is collaborating with Culture Night Belfast on the programming of another Bazaar and entertainment in and around the Cathedral on the recently-announced Culture Day which is following Culture Night this September. The Flea is also travelling to Bangor and will take place in the Salty Dog the first Sunday of the month, beginning this Sunday.

Little Fox events are also collaborating with Open House Festival on a market for their Seaside Revival event on 6th July. It’s all rather serendipitous timing, as another of Caroline’s ventures has been offered a unique expansion opportunity in the seaside town.

Together with her friend Rachel who owns the Darkling jewellery brand, Caroline will be selling her handmade clothing brand Frankies from one of the Project 24 pods.
“[Rachel] just said ‘Would you like to go in with me on a pod?’ because she lives in Bangor and doesn’t want to take a whole one herself. So I was trying to build [Frankies] up online. I just do the Dublin flea market every year at Christmas; they do a big Christmas fair and I always make [clothes] for that.

“So I started making [the dungarees] last year and made them this year and people were asking about buying them online, so I’m trying to get that working. But I thought the Bangor pod would be a great place. People like to go in to shop.”

All of that, plus another Christmas Bazaar in the pipeline for 2019, would probably be enough for most people to juggle. But no – from food foraging to tasting menus served at Stormont, Caroline is positively bubbling over with ideas and plans for her fledgling business.

Her imagination is captured too by The Cathedral Quarter and she is keen to see its potential maximised, with families encouraged to enjoy its spaces, and more socialising outside the weekends.
“They should just make what was Buoys Park into a big kids’ park with picnic areas. There should be a beautiful little bandstand, flowers, maybe a wall to keep it secure. And in Writers Square – there could be picnic benches, moveable ones if needed. And more cafes. The MAC is great, so is the Beanbag Cinema; I’d love to see more of those areas. Galleries, arty things. You know what would be amazing for this area is a little magazine!”

As you can probably tell by now, Caroline doesn’t just talk a good game when it comes to creative ideas, she walks the walk as well. Together with partner Andy, she has been instrumental in bringing the Cathedral Quarter Radio back to the CQ Arts Festival (also very proudly supported by the CQ BID!).

It’s a project started a number of years ago, which has taken something of a hiatus over more recent festivals. However, Andy and Caroline were convinced it should be revived and it would appear that, in the age of the podcast, there is a renewed appetite for independent radio. The clarion call for contributors got a phenomenal response, and there are no fewer than 18 original shows programmed to broadcast live from the Cathedral Quarter over the course of the next four days, beginning with a live broadcast from the Bazaar tomorrow night.

“The reason I concentrate on this area is because although I don’t know Belfast as well as others – I’m still just a blow in – this is where I would hang out. I love Belfast, I think its potential is insane for things to happen here. It’s a really young, open city.”

The CQ Bazaar takes place at Belfast Cathedral on Thursday 2nd May between 5pm and 10:30pm. If you’re coming along, make sure you’re following us, Little Fox Events and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on social media. We’d love you to tag us in any of your pics, posts and Stories and use the #CQBelfast, #CQAF19 and #CQBazaar hashtags. See you there!

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