Julian Cope, who found his musical feet in the Liverpool post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes, has cancelled his highly anticipated gig in Northern Ireland due to safety concerns. The organisers of the Belfast arts festival have said they are stunned that one of the headline acts pulled out.

Julian CopeJulian Cope performing in Liverpool

The Out to Lunch arts festival is staged in the Black Box theatre bar in the Cathedral Quarter where the dissident republican group Óghlaigh na hÉireann left a bomb last week.

In an email, Cope writes, "It is with regret that I feel obliged to cancel my forthcoming Belfast show of January 16th due to the current security situation there and the logistics involved. I'm very sorry about this." (BBC)

Meanwhile, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is investigating reports this morning (Tues, Dec 24) that shots were fired at a police station close to the border with the Irish Republic. Several shots were fired at Lisnaskea PSNI station in County Fermanagh last night according to local unionist politicians and the Police Federation.

Event organiser Sean Kelly tells the BBC, "In 15 years of organising festivals in Belfast, it's the first time we've lost an artist due to the security situation. We received an email. It was very sudden and inexplicable so we simply released it on our website.

"People have been critical of the artist, but I don't think we should rush to judgement too much. I take him at his word that he was genuinely fearful for his safety and we just have to deal with that."

Mr Kelly said they hoped to be able to find another performer to fill the vacancy. "It's three weeks away and there were various ideas, but it might be short notice to pull off something spectacular, but we might do something local," he added.