Summer arts festival guide 2019: Big acts, big ideas and big communal spirit

The Irish arts festival season is now a sophisticated wonderland littered with big acts, big ideas and big communal spirit. Not a weekend goes by without a condensed dose of conviviality taking place somewhere on the island – it’s just a matter of finding the right line-up and tempo for you.

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival

July 6-13

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Woman of the moment Sinéad Gleeson gets top billing in a new literary strand for this eight-day “cultural adventure” taking place under the flat brow of Benbulbin. The festival prides itself on presenting visual arts and theatre in a spirited ambience but it is in its novel and collaborative music line-up that it really stands out. Pairings include alt-folksters Lisa O’Neill and Seamus Fogarty on the final evening.

West Cork Literary Festival

Graham Norton is appearing at the West Cork Literary Festival


Bantry, Co Cork, July 12-19

Bantry is the place to be for readers, writers and fans of illuminating discussion. Once again, the programme is an embarrassment of riches – Graham Norton, Mary Robinson, Tracey Thorn, Kevin Barry, Emilie Pine, Sinéad Gleeson, Joseph O’Connor, I could go on and on – but look to the edges and you’ll find not only platforms for up-and-comers but also a raft of tutorials and masterclasses for aspirants, too.

HOT SPOT: Galway International Arts Festival      

July 15-28

GIAF’s 42nd instalment offers a glittering line-up in the City of the Tribes next month. A typically heavy-hitting music programme features Burt Bacharach, Bell X1, Orbital, Villagers, John Grant, Tinariwen, a very special St Nicholas’ Church set by Robert Plant, as well as an RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s tribute to film-score legend John Williams. Elsewhere, Enda Walsh has a new theatre installation entitled Waiting Room as well as a run of The Same at Galway Airport. There is also a chance to get a sneak peek of Landmark Productions’ work-in-progress musical adaptation of Breakfast On Pluto. And for the hours between lunch in Kai and pints in Neachtain’s, there’s any number of plays, comedy acts, visual art – including Sam Jinks’s exhibition ‘In the Flesh’ (right) – and in-depth discussions with special guest speakers to gorge on.

Murder One

Dublin, July 16 & 23, Sept 6

James Ellroy and Karin Slaughter have been and gone, but ‘Murder One’, an annual midsummer crime-writing temple, still has a couple of bullets in the chamber. Thriller queens Liz Nugent and Australia’s Jane Harper will be in conversation in Dublin’s Pearse St Library, before Ulster noir masters Adrian ­McKinty and Steve Cavanagh convene. The festival is capped-off by a visit to Dublin’s City Hall from New York Times bestseller Linwood Barclay.


Dundrum, Co Dublin, Aug 10-11

Tired of watching childless chums prance off each summer to some cheery knees-up in a midlands field? Seek out Playstival, which aims to cater for both children and their parents with a range of volume levels. Fittingly for the beautiful Airfield Estate, there’s an emphasis on fresh air and old-school values (it’s a “100pc screen-free”). Live music, farmyard animals, world street food, family sports, science shows, Lego building, storytelling and creative writing, and toddler playtime are on the cards.

Kilkenny Arts Festival

Kilkenny, August 8-18

There’s plenty to chose from across the spectrum, but the classical music side of things at the 46th Kilkenny Arts Festival is a highlight. Of note is the Irish debut of Ukrainian piano prodigy Alexander Gavryluk who will fill the hallowed aisles of St Canice’s with Mozart, Brahms and Mussorgsky. Actor Ciarán Hinds will narrate a special performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale and fledgling chamber music collective Musici Ireland will present the works of the esteemed Arvo Pärt. Theatre company Rough Magic are also pencilled in for festival premieres of Much Ado About Nothing and Cleft.

Waterford Walls

Waterford, Aug 22-25

Interesting one, this. Thirty Irish and international street artists are parachuted into Waterford to turn the town into a huge open-air art gallery. Whole buildings become canvases and myriad trails are organised throughout the town. Workshops, live music, panel discussions and children’s street art complete the picture. 


Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival

Cape Clear Island, Co Cork,

Aug 30-Sept 1

Gather round and I will tell you a tale, one of a US teacher and his wife who moved from Zurich to the West Cork island of Cape Clear in 1992 before establishing a storytelling festival that would reinvest profits year-on-year. Twenty-five years on, word is that this curiosity 12km off the coast of Baltimore is every bit as cosy, intriguing and nourishing as you imagine.

Dublin Fringe

Sept 7-22

Communication breakdown in a hotel room. A DJ set for children under eight. Welcoming a refurbished Goethe-Institut through dance choreography. What ever would we do without the Dublin Fringe cartwheeling into our lives every September? Only a smattering of events have been announced but it already looks as eclectic and angular as ever.

Clifden Arts Festival

Clifden, Co Galway, Sept 18-29

September is a safe bet for fine weather in Connemara. Whether this formed part of Brendan Flynn’s vision when he dreamed up CAF in 1977 is anyone’s guess, but excellent programming over the years has ensured an annual pilgrimage westwards for many people. Dubbed “Ireland’s best-kept secret” by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, CAF is the longest-running community arts festival in the land and consistently entices marquee names to its stunning perch between the Twelve Bens and the Atlantic. Finishing touches are being put to the line-up but Paul Noonan (Bell X1), comedian Fred Cooke, dramatist Pat Kinevane, and a special screening of Frank Shouldice’s charming documentary The Man Who Wanted to Fly are already confirmed.

Dublin Theatre Festival

Citywide, Sept 26-Oct 13

The Playboy of the Western World, trans musical How to Win Against History (above) a non-play set in Samuel Beckett’s empty Paris apartment, and the tantalising prospect of a dark new offering from Nancy Harris. These are just some of the productions revealed thus far for Ireland’s most comprehensive theatre festival ­


Write By The Sea

Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford

Sept 27-29

Mike McCormack, Dermot Bolger, Vincent Hogan, Kit de Waal and Kevin Doyle are so far confirmed for the fourth year of this celebration of the written word. An academic examination of Flannery O’Connor is also mooted.

Summer film guide 2019: From blockbusters to indie flicks and the best of the festivals

Summer music guide 2019: Intimate gigs, arena concerts, and the best of the music festivals 

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