Belfast Street Art Festival, Hit The North

Hookedblog has just returned from a jam-packed few days in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My Belfast city visit coincided with the Hit The North, Ireland's largest street art festival which saw over 50 renowned national and international artists redecorating walls across the city with their artwork. 



Belfast street art festival, Hit the North

It was a double first for me, Belfast is a city I have not previously visited, long on my city destination list and I finally managed to visit this Northern Irish city over the May Bank Holiday weekend. 

Hit the North street art festival was another first for me. The festival is curated by Adam Turkington, director of local arts group Seedhead Arts who has been at the forefront of the Belfast street art scene for over a decade now organising festivals and running local street art walking tours and events. 

The Hit the North street art festival has been on my radar for a number of years having seen some of the previous mural works spray-painted around Belfast and shared on social media.

Festival curator Adam Turkington has always had a strong selection of international artists painting at the festival, while also championing both local and national Irish street and graffiti artists which combined have contributed to making Hit the North such a success, as well as Ireland’s largest street art festival. 

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Artist Alana McDowell at work

Illustrator, designer, and artist Alana McDowell is pictured at work on her Belle of Belfast City mural for the Hit The North festival.

Belfast City Visit

Lucky for me, my Belfast city visit coincided with the 10th edition of the Irish street art festival, their largest edition yet! 

Over those ten years of the festival, I have made a number of failed attempts to attend the Hit the North festival. Previous editions of the festival have taken place over the month of September and for me getting the dates to align has never quite worked out. The month of September is a busy month for street art and murals festivals, and there are often multiple festivals whose dates overlap, especially in Europe. 

Earlier this year when the festival announced its artist line-up, I was delighted to see the festival had moved the dates from September to May, synchronizing with the Festival of Fools and Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival events happening in the city over the same weekend. The new dates meant I was finally able to get over to Belfast for a visit and check out the festivals taking place across the city.

I flew into Belfast from London on a Friday, checked into the hotel, and headed off to explore the city. Many of the invited artists who were allocated larger walls had already begun to work on their murals, marking up their outlines and laying down the initials base layers of paint. 

Belfast street artist Wee Nulls for Hit The North festival

'The World Is Ours',  local artist Wee Nuls new Belfast addition painted for the Hit The North festival.

Belfast Street Art Tour

The weather is always a topic of conversation in Ireland and with rain forecasted for the Saturday, those working with emulsion paints were working flat out throughout the day to make the most of the sunny day. I too took advantage of the warm day and decided to join one of the Hit The North Belfast street art tours, a great introduction to the city allowing me to get my bearings and take in some of the works painted for the previous editions of the festival.

Throughout the year Seedhead Arts runs two hours Belfast street art tours every Sunday and in the run-up to and during the HTN festival they increased the number of tours on offer. This year saw them team up with award-winning Taste and Tour for some trial run events, combining their famous street art tour with some amazing street food and drinks added along the way. 

Our group of about 12 adults had two tour guides showing us around, one guide an artist herself was talking us through the city's street art we discovered during the two-hour tour. The other guide who joined us worked with Taste and Tour and she talked us through some of the amazing street foods and drinks we sampled at multiple locations along the tour. Banger Hot dogs and Hennessy, pizza and IPA's from cooperative Belfast brewery Boundary, and taco's from street food market Common Market

Belfast Street Art Tour

One of our tour guides for the evening was visual artist Kerrie Hanna pictured above in front of the mural work of artist Wee Nuls.  


I am not sure if they plan to continue with these excellent combined street art/street food tours, but if you see one listed be sure to book a spot if you can, keep an eye on the Seedheads Arts upcoming events page on their website. They might decide to only run these during the Hit The North Festival, so maybe consider doing both, one of the Seedhead Art street art tours and one of the many food and drink tours Taste and Tour offer.
 
My first day finished where else but in the pub, in the much-loved Sunflower Pub on Union Street with some live traditional music and a few too many Boundry beers catching up with Irish artists Asbestos and Aches.

Belfast Street Art Paint Jam

My next two days were spent exploring the city while bouncing around from wall to wall capturing some of the artists at work on their Hit The North murals. Most of the festival artists were working on walls located within the Cathedral Quater with a few of the larger walls a little further out, but still within walking distance in the city centre.

The Cathedral Quarter was also the main area for the festival with a street party/paint jam taking place on Sunday with all the invited artists transforming the walls along Union Street and Kent Street on the day.

A super fun day and a great atmosphere with the Belfast crowd turning out in large numbers to watch the artworks unfold at the paint jam while enjoying the party vibes with music, food trucks, and refreshments.

Congratulations to all involved in making Hit The North festival a huge success, all at Seedhead Arts, the festival staff and volunteers, and of course all the artists who have transformed this part of the city adding nearly 50 new street artworks to an ever-growing collection of Belfast street art. 

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The north

Artist Carl Kenz at work on his large-scale Hit the North mural in Belfast, Ireland.

Hit The North Festival Artists

The 10th edition of the Hit the North street art festival saw some 50+ street and graffiti artists painting across Belfast city. This year's line-up included the following artists; 

Bust, Asbestos, Irony, Inkie, Aches, Curtis Hylton, Andy Council, Lobster, Friz, Kitsune Jolene, KMG, Hixxy, Sophie Mess, Kenz, Iota, ADW, ESTR, Vanessa Power, Holly Pereira, Omin, Shane Ha, Alana McDowell, Claire Prouvost, FGB, Glen Molloy, Laura Nelson, Noys, Rob Hilken, Conor McClure, JMK, KVLR, Leo Boyd, Not Pop, Zippy, Codo, HM Constance, Kerrie Hannah, All the Doods, RowZ, Vents, Shane O'Malley, Finbar McHugh, Zurdie, Killian, Oner, & Wee Nuls.

Hit The North Gallery

Take a look at the images I captured at the festival over the weekend, featuring a selection of work-in-progress shots and a number of the finished artist murals. 

As is often the case with larger mural works at street art festivals, some of the artists were still working on the walls as I left the city for my flight back to London, and unfortunately, I didn't get to see all of the bigger walls complete in person. 

As I tend to only share my own images on the site I will just have to plan another Belfast city visit to see the completed works I missed as well as some of the other murals from previous editions I didn't have time to track down on this short trip.


Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Sophie Mess at work

UK artist Sophie Mess is pictured at work on her large-scale mural titled 'Shaping ideas', for the Hit The North festival in Belfast's Linen Quarter. This was one of the larger murals that I didn't get to see completed in person before I departed Belfast.

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Sophie Mess at work

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - FGB at work

Belfast-based artist/illustrator FGB (Francois Got Buffed) is pictured taking a pizza break in front of his Hit The North mural on Union Street, Belfast. 

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Curtis Hylton at work

UK artist Curtis Hylton is busy at work adding the finishing touches to his Belfast mural. Pictured below is his finished Hit The North mural.

Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Curtis Hylton at work

Artist Andy Council at work on a mural in Belfast, Ireland

Bristol-based artist and illustrator Andy Council at work on his Hit The North mural titled " Belfast Deco Fish" which saw him draw inspiration from some of the Art Deco buildings that can be found in the city. 

The fish-shaped mural incorporates sections of these Art Deco buildings combined with other Deco-influenced shapes. The completed mural is located on Patterson's Place, Belfast.


Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Andy Council at work


Belfast Street Art Festival Hit The North - Shane O'Malley at work

Galway-based Irish artist Shane O'Malley is pictured at work on his Hit the North mural.

Belfast Street Art mural for Hit The North festival, artist Zippy at work

Belfast-based artist ZIPPY is pictured at work on her mural piece for the Hit The North Festival, with artist FGB (Francois Got Buffed) in the background.


The portrait work of artist and animator Kayde Middleton aka Inkfun pictured above. The mural work is titled 'Shane' and features artist Shane Ha who painted alongside Kayde at the Hit the North festival. Pictured below is the mural work Shane Ha painted for the festival.



Belfast Street Art mural for Hit The North festival, artist Asbestos and Iota at work

Dublin- based artist Asbestos at work in the background and Belgian artist Iota to the front moving her lift into position to work on her festival mural. 

Both of these artists were still working on these larger works when we left late Monday afternoon. I will have to plan a return visit to the city to catch up on all the murals I missed.

Belfast Street Art mural for Hit The North festival, artist Aches at work

Spot the artist! Dublin-based artist Aches is just about visible behind the lift at work on one of his mind-bending portrait murals.
 
Belfast Street Art mural for Hit The North festival, artist Kitsune Jolene at work

Kitsune Jolene (aka Jolien De Waele) is a street artist, based in Ghent, Belgium, pictured here at work on her large-scale mural for the festival. 

Belfast Street Art mural for Hit The North festival, artist Kitsune Jolene at work




Crowds enjoy the entertainment and refreshments and a splash of sunshine with Irish artist Niall O'Lochlainn aka Niall.ol in the background at work on his artwork for the Hit the North festival.



Irish stencil artist ADW is pictured adding another layer to his multi-layered large-scale stencil mural on Union Street for Hit The North. 

 
Artist RAZER is pictured above at work on his piece on Kent Street for the Hit The North Festival.


Irish-Singaporean muralist and illustrator Holly Pereira is pictured adding the finishing touches to her work on Union Street Belfast.



UK artists Jo Hicks aka Hixxy at work on her Union Street mural.



UK-based artist Irony who has previously painted at some of the earlier festival editions was back in Belfast to create the new work pictured above on Kent Street, Belfast.

Belfast Street Art Festival - Hit The North artist Lobster

Belgian artist Lobster Robin based in Ghent pictured here adding the final linework to his large-scale mermaid mural on Kent Street, Belfast for Hit The North festival.


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[AD - Press Trip] My trip to Belfast was in partnership with Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland, who kindly hosted me during my visit to the city, for the Hit the North street art festival.