It’s that time of the year again when the days grow longer, the evenings get brighter, the weather gets warmer (and hopefully drier) – and thoughts turn to the Great Outdoors.

Nothing heralds the onset of the Irish summer as clearly as the arrival of Festival Season. We like our live music and arts events – and we like them even more when they’re held in the open-air, with all of the freedom, magic and good times that seem to happen when we get together with friends and great music under blue skies and clear stars.
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.

Considered to be the first festival of the summer, Drogheda Arts Festival swings into action with its eclectic mix of theatre, music, visual arts and literature. Set against the backdrop of the Boyne Valley, the event boasts an impressive line-up of local and international talent. This year’s theme is Poetry Connects, with a major emphasis being put on the works of WB Yeats, TS Eliot and Sharon Olds. The festival will also host sculpture exhibitions, spoken word events and, of course, some great music.
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 fi ne wares.
Music Cork

May 10-12, Cork City, County Cork. Ailbhe Reddy, Le Boom, Lyra, Cry Harridan, Jafaris, Little Hours, Super Silly, Alex & Echoes, BARQ and Rob Burch.


Rory Gallagher International Festival

June 1-4, Big Top, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. Band Of Friends, Ten Years After, Eric Bell Band, Sinnerboy, Bernie Marsden Band and more Camping and ticket €79, three nights concert tickets €60.

Since its inauguration in 2002, this tribute festival has celebrated the music and life of Rory Gallagher in fantastic fashion, with over 10,000 fans being drawn to the festival each year from all corners of the globe. Among the billtoppers are Band Of Friends whose ranks include former Rory bassist Gerry McAvoy. AC/DC’s Angus Young says it’s on his bucket-list to attend, so you never know who might be rocking out next to you!
The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival

June 1-5, Kilkenny. Dara O’Briain, Tommy Tiernan, TJ Miller, Aisling Bea, Kevin Bridges, Limmy, Adam Hills, Nina Conti, Panti, Al Porter, Deirdre O’Kane, Des Bishop, Zoe Lyons, Rubberbandits, Jason Byrne, Phill Jupitus, Neil Delamere, David O’Doherty and more.

Firmly established as one of the world’s leading comedy festivals, Cat Laughs makes its June Bank Holiday return with its usual array of visiting Americans, top Irish and UK funnypersons, and some of the stand-up circuit’s hottest emerging talent. From seated theatre gigs to rawkus pub improv, all forms of comedic life will be here.
AVA Festival

June 2-3, T13 Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Jeff Mills, Marcel Dettmann, Ben UFO, Denis Sulta, Fatima Yamaha, Rebekah, Job Jobse, Midland, Bicep and more. Day tickets £35, weekend tickets £60

For the third year running, the AVA (Audio Visual Arts) Festival and Conference is set to return to its Belfast home at T13 Titanic Quarter, this time taking place across two days. For its first full-weekend outing, AVA will have conferences, talks, music and arts from a wealth of global and local artists. You’ll find a rare Jeff Mills and Guillaume Marmin collaboration, Marcel Dettmann, Bicep, Fatima Yamaha Live, and a host of local artists ready to descend on the vast Belfast warehouse space. On top of this, there’s the return of the almighty Boiler Room, plus AVA’s all-important conference on the Friday.


June 2-5, Killorglin, Co. Kerry. Farah Elle, R.S.A.G., Super Silly, Dashka, New Valley Wolves, Tebi Rex, Sean X, Three Underneath, Jade Roxanne and more.

This far-reaching arts festival promotes culture in all its forms and includes galleries, live music, film, spoken word and children’s workshops. Since 2013, K-Fest has been using unoccupied spaces in Killorglin, transforming vacant retail outlets, deserted buildings, and even domestic homes into bespoke pop-up galleries. A true arts extravaganza, it’s manna from heaven for those with a creative streak.
Ireland Bike Fest 2017

June 2-4, Killarney, Kerry. Knights Of Leon, JoanovArc, Dep Leppard, Bowtie, Track Dogs, Live Lizzy, Hells Bells and more.

Now a supremely well-oiled machine having celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, the Bike Fest attracts enthusiasts in their tens of thousands from all over the world. The real attraction is the opportunity for bikers to ride the twisting tracks on worldfamous routes such as the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way. This year, there will be daily rideouts along the latter - marshalled by Celtic Thunder Chapter Ireland and Gaelic Chapter Ireland – free Harley-Davidson demo rides, Waterford and Dublin Harley-Davidson dealers, H.O.G. hospitality & info, the Custom Bike Show, parade and lots of free live indoor and outdoor entertainment day and night.


June 3-4, Beaulieu House & Gardens, Drogheda, Co. Louth. The Riptide Movement, Kíla, Overhead, The Albatross, Lankum, The Pale, Orchid Collective, The Eskies, Andy Smith, The Eskies, Fish Go Deep, New Secret Weapon, MINDRIOT, Cat Dowling, Blood and Fire Sound System feat. MC Brother Culture and more. Weekend ticket €85, day tickets €40–€50

This unique festival, which brings together campervan fans from across the island, has been going strong for the past five years. It’s located in Beaulieu House, an historic 17th century residence located half-way between Dublin and Belfast. Vantastival has earned a reputation for being relaxed and super-friendly, with an activity filled Kids’ Camp and lots of other family-friendly fun. The organisers have continually refused to go the commercial route, making this a predominantly homegrown affair music-wise. This year’s festival will once again feature a tonne of great acts, along with The Volkswagen Campervan Cook-off, open mic sessions, art installations, storytelling, festival traders and a new Glasshouse Stage acoustic area.

Forbidden Fruit

June 3-5, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Co. Dublin. Bon Iver, Orbital, Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Nicholas Jaar, Lisa Hannigan, Booka Shade, Flying Lotus, Moderat, Hot Chip, Tycho, Giggs and more. Day tickets €64.50, weekend tickets €145.50

This much-lauded urban festival returns for a seventh year. American indie folk legend Justin Vernon, AKA Bon Iver, curates Monday’s proceedings with the help of pals Flying Lotus and Lisa Hannigan, while British dance duo Orbital, and Limerick-born electronic producer Aphex Twin are the respective Saturday and Sunday headliners. Located in the heart of Dublin City and therefore negating the need for tents and wellies, Forbidden Fruit has become an established part of the capital’s summer. For those travelling from further afield, Heuston Station is located just minutes from the historic Royal Hospital and its palatial grounds.

Carlow Arts Festival

June 7-13, Graigue, Carlow. Rusangano Family, The Strypes, Stomptown Bass, Crash Ensemble, Sarah O’Gorman, Emmet Kirwan and more.

Now in its 38th year, this is a multi-disciplinary event taking place in Carlow town, with visual art, theatre, music, and dance all on the menu. This year’s highlights include RTÉ Choice Music Prize winners Rusangano Family, a Limerick hip hop trio who deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as NWA and Public Enemy. Yep, they’re that astonishing live! There’s also a special treat for opera fans, as Philip Glass’s epic Einstein On The Beach hits the big screen at the G.B. Shaw Theatre. We’re also looking forward to another sweaty night in the company of The Strypes, the Cavan quartet whose celebrity fan club includes Elton John, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller.

B.A.R.E. in the Woods

June 9–11, Warburton Estate, Garryhinch Woods, Co. Laois. House Of Pain, Helmet, Mike Skinner & Murkage Present Tonga, AJ Tracey, Kiesza, The Frank And Walters, The Hot Sprockets, RSAG, Rubberbandits, INXS’ Jon Stevens, Right Said Fred and more. Weekend camping tickets (Tier 2) €125, day tickets (Tier 2) €40

Occupying the lush surrounds of Garryhinch Woods, BARE In The Woods made a massive impression last year with a line-up that included hip hop legends The Sugarhill Gang. This year another veteran rap crew lead the charge, with House of Pain playing their first Irish show in six years, while The Streets frontman Mike Skinner and Canadian multi-instrumentalist Kiesza bring their celebrated Tonga club night to the always sunny Midlands. Other notable attractions include the KOKO Burst Stage, a party island out on the lake, the Dance Arena, a spoken word tent and a Comedy Stage, helmed by Andrew Maxwell and Karl Spain.
The Festival Of Writing & Ideas

June 9 – 11, Borris House, Carlow Sebastian Barry, Eimear McBride, Colm Toibin, David Simon and Fintan O’Toole.

The sixth edition of the Festival of Writing & Ideas, which has previously attracted the likes of Martin Amis and PJ Harvey, boasts another fantastic line-up. Leading the way is The Wire creator and vociferous Donald Trump critic, David Simon, who’ll be joined by a shelf-full of other leading literary figures from both sides of the Atlantic. For book worms and culture vultures, this is one of the events of the summer.

June 13-30 & August 26, Ormeau Park & Custom House Square, Belfast Arcade Fire, The 1975, Jess Glynn, The Chainsmokers, Stiff Little Fingers, Kasabian and more. Tickets ranging from £33 to £49

Moving in the main this year from Custom House Square to the much larger Ormeau Park, the festival gets off to an exciting start on June 13 courtesy of pioneering indie rockers Arcade Fire, while arena pop heroes The 1975, chart-toppers The Chainsmokers, and groove mechanics Axwell & Ingrosso will also be adding to the fun. August, meanwhile, fi nds punk icons Stiff Little Fingers celebrating their 40th anniversary in Belsonic’s old CHS home, with fellow punk survivors The Stranglers, The Ruts DC, The Outcasts and Good Vibrations supremo Terri Hooley who’ll be manning the decks inbetween sets.

Doolin Folk Festival

June 16-18, Hotel Doolin, Co. Clare. Lisa Hannigan, The Stunning, Sharon Shannon, Altan, Mundy, Duke Special & Ulaid, John Spillane, and more. General admission tickets €99, Friday ticket €35, Saturday €45, Sunday €40.

Taking its cue from its predecessor, Lisdoonvarna, the Doolin Folk Festival presents powerful music in an intimate setting. Those lucky enough to attend the event, in the grounds of Hotel Doolin, will be treated to performances by such acclaimed Irish artists as Lisa Hannigan, The Stunning, Sharon Shannon and Altan. Famed for its lively trad sessions and home to the legendary Russell Brothers, the small fi shing village is situated between the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and the Aran Islands – giving visitors an exquisite taste of the Wild Atlantic Way as they kick back and enjoy one of Ireland’s truly great events.
Body and Soul

June 23-25, Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath. Metronomy, Lambchop, Sleaford Mods, Vitalic, Mykki Blanco, Austra, Optimo20, Sinkane, Birdy Nam Nam, Hundred Waters, La Femme, Songhoy Blues, Tiggs Da Author, The Moonlandingz and more. General and family weekend tickets €195

Body & Soul is located in the stunning grounds of Ballinlough Castle, where the woodlands, lake and 15th century walled garden provide a magnifi cent backdrop for the glittering late-night discos, inspirational art trails and a legendary masquerade ball that all the give the three-dayer its spiritual vibe. As for that bill; wow!
Sea Sessions

June 23-25, Bundoran, Co. Donegal The Coronas, Primal Scream, Sigma, Foy Vance, All Tvvins, Badly Drawn Boy, Mr Scruff, Little Hours, Dreadzone, Shit Robot, Brian Deady, Aine Cahill, Wyvern Lingo, Daithi, Gurr, Kormac, Talos and more. Day tickets €49.50, weekend camping tickets €124.90

Having recently won the 2016 IRMO Live Music Festival of the Year Award, it’s safe to say that Sea Sessions has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2008. Set in the surfer’s paradise of Bundoran and surrounded by the stunning Atlantic coastline - and with a wealth of water-based activities - it has cemented its reputation as ‘the beach party weekend of the year’.