The Essential Festival Guide: April - May

With the festival season about to kick into gear, we've assembled a comprehensive guide to the country's top events this summer!

Each day this week, we'll be bringing you our rundown of the best festival throughout each of the summer months, including who to see and what to expect when you get there.


Drogheda Arts Festival

April 24-May 1, Drogheda, Co. Louth.

Terry Hall DJ Set, Thor Harris & Friends, Graffiti Classics, Maighread & Triona Ni Dhomhnall and more.

Centred in the cultural capital of the Boyne Valley, the Drogheda Arts Festival will ring in the summer with a week-long event packed with art, music, poetry, drama and fun for all ages.

This year’s Festival will present two Irish exclusives and a world premiere. Thor and Friends (the US musician and former percussionist with Swans) will open his European tour and have his only Irish date on Friday, April 28. Then on Bank Holiday Sunday, Terry Hall, lead singer of The Specials, will perform a DJ Set in Fusion Nightclub. As well as this, Louth Contemporary Music Society’s founder Eamonn Quinn has just been announced as the winner of the 2018 Belmont Prize for contemporary music by the Forberg Schneider Foundation in Munich making their new commission and world premiere of The Louth Work, by composer James Dillon even more exciting.

Punchestown Festival

April 25-29, Punchestown Racecourse, Naas, Co. Kildare.

Jess Glynne, Tom Jones, Shane Filan, Deacon Blue, Lightning Seeds, Dr. Hook, Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals fame, Village People, Smash Hits, All Saints, ABC, Bjorn Again, Boney M and Smokie.

Day tickets €69.50, weekend tickets €129.

This two-day festival takes place in one of Ireland’s most famous racecourses. Set in the idyllic venue which once played host to some of the world’s biggest acts – not to mention Oxegen until 2014 – audiences have always been drawn to Punchestown as much for music as the horseracing. This year’s line-up has a definite retro flavour, with Jess Glynn headlining the Saturday and Tom Jones taking care of Sunday honours.

Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

April 27-May 7, various venues, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast.

Sugarhill Gang, Booker T. Jones, Robert Cray, The Handsome Family, Chip Taylor, Heidi Talbot, Sofie Hagen, Amy Liptrot, Jeremy Hardy, The Divine Comedy and Interskalatic.

Now in its 16th year, this annual festival of music, comedy, theatre, art and literature takes place in one of Belfast’s most vibrant cultural hubs. Celebrated for its socially inclusive agenda and eclectic blend of big names, emerging acts and fringe performances, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival attracts well over 60,000 entertainment-hungry people. Highlights this year include rap pioneers The Sugarhill Gang and multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones who was such a massive influence on the ‘60s mod scene - and beyond!

City of Derry Jazz Festival

April 27- May 1, Derry City.

Imelda May, Meilana Gillard, Hugh Buckley, Robert Mitchell, Bourbon Swing Band, Cat Scratch Fever, The Henry Girls and more.

Bringing renowned artists like Imelda May to the northwest, the City of Derry Jazz Festival continues to go from strength to strength. Taking place in the Jazz Hub venues of The Playhouse and Bennigans Bar, the event will feature performances in 80 locations throughout the city and wider district, with additional opportunities to follow the Guinness Jazz Trail and take part in jazz workshops and educational programmes.

Kilkenny Roots Festival

April 28-May 1, Kilkenny City.

Arborist, David Kitt, John Blek, Chip Taylor, The Handsome Family, Holly Macve, Western Centuries, Carter Simpson, Marah, David Kitt, Yola Carter and more.

Ireland’s premier folk, roots and Americana festival has been around since 1998 and has attracted some of the finest names from all of those genres, including Ryan Adams, Chuck Prophet, Ray LaMontagne and Alabama Shakes. Audiences wend their way through the medieval streets, sampling the music in over 30 venues, hosting over 40 Irish and international acts. There are 90-plus ticketed and free shows, running from early afternoon until late at night, with a mixture of old and new acts the free pub gig trail.


International Gay Theatre Festival

May 1-14, Dublin.

With an emphasis on new or recent international and Irish works with a broadly gay theme or relevance, this festival has grown to become the largest event of its type in the world. The event creates new opportunities for visibility and affirmation for existing and emerging gay artists and theatrical works. Criteria for inclusion in the programme are broadly interpreted to include works by gay writers, that have a gay relevance or theme, or that include either performance or another artistic contribution by gay people. This year’s festival will celebrate what it means to be gay through stories told across the globe, from the streets of modern New York and Dublin to Victorian London and 1920s Paris.

Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine

May 19 – 21, Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Tomás Clancy, Joanna Blythman.

Litfest is an annual event that brings together national and international authors, chefs, wine experts, gardeners, TV presenters and more onto the grounds of Ballymaloe House and Cookery School for a three-day feast. Speakers at 2017’s event will include broadcaster and wine correspondent Tomas Clancy and food journalist Joanna Blythman, amongst many others.

Slane Festival

May 27, Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath.

Guns N’Roses, Royal Blood, Mark Lanegan Band & Otherkin.

Tickets sold out.

Guns N’Roses’ Not In This Lifetime Tour will be making its way to Lord Henry’s gaff this May, headlining the Slane festival exactly 25 years after they last played there. Make sure to arrive early for the stellar supports such as Royal Blood who’ve just announced the June 16 release of their How Did We Get So Dark? album. With Axl, Duff and Slash all on board, GNR’s comback has been wildly successful and this should be a day to remember by the Boyne.

Life Festival

May 26- 28, Belvedere House, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

Rudimental, Dixon, Duke Dumont, Goldie, Sunil Sharpe, Get Down Edits, Modern Magic, Gorgon City and more.

Tickets €144. This year’s Life line-up features another string of world-class artists and producers, including Rudimental, Duke Dumont, Gorgon City and Resident Advisor’s No. 1 ranked DJ, Dixon. Boutique camping is available, but there’s nothing like having the craic with a bunch of hyped-up dance and electronic music lovers in the main camping area!

Killarney Beerfest

May 26-28, INEC, Killarney, Co. Kerry.

Rackhouse Pilfer, Beoga, The Whileaways and more.

Entry is €10 and includes four beer tokens.

At Killarney Beerfest, there’ll be demonstrations, tastings and an opportunity to meet the brewers, as well as beer and food pairing classes and a whole lot more besides. Beoir Ireland will once again host a comprehensive awards programme. O’Hara’s, James Brown, St. Mel’s, Wicklow Wolf, The Porterhouse, Mont, Independent, YellowBelly, Rascals, Franciscan Well, Blank Donkey, Galway Bay, 9 White Deer, Cotton Ball, Kinnegar, Wild Bat, Black’s of Kinsale, and Killarney Brewing Company are among those showcasing their very fine wares.


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