Take a break at one of Ireland’s many autumn festivals
Treat yourself to a short break at one of the many events and festivals taking place across Ireland this autumn. Visit www.discoverireland.ie for great value offers and a list of the must see festivals taking place this September, including these highlights from around the country.
Tall Tales on Cape Clear Island
The Cape Clear Storytelling Festival, which takes place on Cape Clear Island, Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island, has been described as a ‘festival on the edge’. Its appeal as a storytelling festival has been well established over the last 16 years, and it attracts an avid audience of serious storytelling enthusiasts, while at the same time catering for all ages and creeds. This festival, which takes place from September 3 to 5, brings visitors back to a time when the human voice was the most potent form of entertainment, and carefully woven stories around the fire would provide hours of listening pleasure.
The varied and extensive programme of events will take place in various parts of Cape Clear Island, with a well-known cast of story-tellers including Rosemary Woods, Charlotte Blake Alston, David Campbell, Pat Speight, and Suse Weisse, who have devised a programme including highlights Storyswap, The Good, the Bad, and the Story, heritage walks, and tales from the Grimms’ collection. For more visit www.discoverireland .ie/cork
Rhythm and blues in Monaghan
Rhythm and blues lovers should put Monaghan on their musical map from September 3 to 5, as the county plays host to the Harvest Time Blues Festival, considered the most significant blues festival in Ireland. The festival attracts internationally renowned performers, and musical buffs can look forward to a line-up that includes King King, Larry Garner, The Norman Beaker Band, and Watermelon Slim and the Workers. The main events take place in a great marquee where the music kicks off at 11.30pm each of the three nights, and continues into the wee hours. The festival involves eight blues trail venues, where there is no cover charge, with more than 40 free blues trail gigs over the weekend. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/northwest
Meet your match in Lisdoonvarna
While everyone is welcome at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, it is the singletons who are really embraced by this small town in the heart of the Shannon region. Taking place from September 3 to October 3, the festival has gone from strength to strength over the years, with more couples and singles coming to enjoy the music and dancing all month. The biggest ‘singles’ event in Europe and one of the oldest festivals in Ireland offers the crowds the winning combination of romance and craic. Festival goers and singletons will also have the opportunity to meet matchmaker Willie Daly in the Matchmaker Bar during the festival.
The festival is concentrated on the weekends but there is also music and dancing during the week. The dancing starts daily at midday, and continues all over town until the early hours. The atmosphere at weekends is electric with many showbands playing all over town, and the festival kicks off with the Lisdoonvarna Pony Races. The festival finishes with the crowning of Mr Lisdoonvarna and The Queen of The Burren on October 2 and 3. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/shannon
Arts Week in Clifden
This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the Clifden Community Arts Week which takes place from September 16 to 26. The Clifden Arts Festival is the longest running community arts festival in the country, and covers a broad spectrum of art forms including theatre, children’s shows, dance, and exhibitions. The festival is the autumn jewel in Galway’s calendar of festivals. Every year, the coastal town hosts a wealth of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, poets, writers, comedians, musicians, and performers, and this year’s highlights include performances by Christy Moore, Declan Sinnott, and readings by Carol Ann Duffy and Edna O’ Brien. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/galway
Ploughing in Athy
The All-Ireland Ploughing Finals, which will take place in Athy in Co Kildare from September 21 to 23, is the largest rural gathering of people in Europe and the pinnacle of the ploughing year. This year, the European Championships will also take place over the course of the three days, with some 15 countries participating. In 2009 more than 188,000 attended the event, such is the broadness of its appeal; there is something to interest everyone at the event, not just farmers or rural dwellers.
This event is a fantastic day out for the whole family, regardless of whether you work the land or not. It hosts one of Europe’s largest agricultural trade exhibitions as well as showcasing many different breeds of livestock. There are also sporting challenges, machinery exhibitions, educational stands, health, leisure, and lifestyle pavilions, alternative enterprise, bio fuels, and many special attractions. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/dublinsdoorstep
Tinkling the ivories in Wexford
For a festival with a truly intimate feel, head to New Ross, Co Wexford, for the Piano Festival from September 23 to 26. This family friendly musical extravaganza will see six superb pianists play throughout an enthralling weekend. Three of the pianists share the platform at three main concerts, as well as two daytime solo recitals by other pianists, and a late-night concert. A chamber group adds an extra dimension each evening. Past performers include Cristina Ortiz, Freddy Kempf, Sunwook Kim, John O’Conor, Finghin Collins, Antti Siirala, Emma Johnston, and Marc Coppey. These concerts all take place in historic St Mary’s Church, the subject of one of the panels in the amazing Ros Tapestry exhibition.
The festival also encourages burgeoning musical talents with various programme highlights including a young pianists concert, a masterclass free to the public, jazz ‘downtown’, and a ‘meet the pianist’ session for second level students. Small town intimacy meets international brilliance. For more visit www.discoverireland ie/wexford
Strumming the strings in Longford
From September 23 to 26 the town of Longford will be transformed into a mecca for musicians and musician lovers. Created to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s best recognised musical talents, the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival promotes Irish culture, and the friendship between Ireland and the world through the medium of music. The festival, which gives a nod to the musical migration from Ireland to America and beyond, consists of nightly concerts, street and pub sessions, educational workshops, formal and informal jams and sessions, and local crafts exhibits. The festival calls itself “a celebration of Irish traditional, American bluegrass, and folk music”, and it offers the perfect excuse to get your groove on. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/lakelands
Fiddlesticks and folk music in Cork
Fantastic fun for the whole family is guaranteed at the Beamish Cork Folk Festival which has been taking place annually since 1979, at 45 locations throughout the city. This four-day event will take place from September 30 to October 3 and features the best of traditional Irish and folk music. Throughout the weekend audiences can sample set dancing, sean nós dancing, bluegrass and Cajun music, singer songwriters, a singers’ club, and pub sessions. The highlight of the festival takes place on the Grand Parade on the Sunday afternoon of the festival, when 5,000 dancers will gather to take part in Ireland’s largest open air céilí, dancing everything from the ‘Siege of Ennis’ to the ‘Sliabh Luachra Set’. Callers such as Timmy McCarthy and William Hammond will take people through traditional dances on the day. For more visit www.discoverireland.ie/cork