- 19 Apr 23
We're taking a look at the brilliantly eclectic range of community festivals taking place around the country this summer...
From music and dance, to food and folklore, local festivals serve to remind us just how rich and diverse our culture and heritage is. All across the country, communities band together every year to welcome visitors to their towns and villages, with a thrilling array of performances, carnivals, showcases, competitions and more.
Each celebration offers something different – whether that’s a new appreciation for a beautiful area, a rekindled love for the Irish language, or brilliant friendships forged while soaking in tunes at a session. So why not take a stroll off the beaten track this summer, and explore some of the vibrant community festivals dotted throughout Ireland…
KILFENORA TRADITIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Kilfenora, Co. Clare. April 21-24
Originally established in 2009 to mark the centenary of the Kilfenora Céilí Band, this traditional music festival is famed for its unforgettable concerts, céilís, CD launches and pub sessions. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, this year will include performances from the Moynihan Family, Frances Kennedy, Órlaith McAuliffe, Emily Greaney, Dylan Carlos, Daithí Gormley, Brian McGrath, the Star of Munster Céilí Band, and more.
FÉILE NA BEALTAINE
Dingle, Co. Kerry. April 27-May 1
Dingle will once again be hosting this popular festival over the May Bank Holiday Weekend. With a strong emphasis on community, the event is a brilliant opportunity to mark the arrival of summer through music, theatre and more. You can expect a selection of well-known artists, as well as acclaimed local heroes at this year’s festival – including Talos, Ye Vagabonds, Anna Mieke, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Cormac Begley, Pa Sheehy and HamsandwicH.
FÉILE CHOIS CUAIN
Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. April 28-May 1
Since 1995, Louisburgh has provided the setting for this renowned festival, which aims to preserve, develop and promote the traditional arts and the Irish language in the local area. The natural beauty of the surroundings and the warm atmosphere in the small town make it a perfect spot for soaking in music. This year, you can look forward to masterclasses, sessions, performances and more – with their full programme available on their website now.
CONNEMARA MOUNTAIN WALKING FESTIVAL
Leenane, Co. Galway. April 29 & 30
A major event on the Connemara calendar, this is a walking festival with a difference, thanks to its unique combination of the mountains and the sea – with Leenane situated on the edge of Killary Harbour, and surrounded by mountains in all directions. Now in its 15th year, the festival has been designed to suit all levels of walkers, with a selection of casual and more strenuous options.
FÉILE JOE ÉINNIÚ
Carna, Co. Galway. May 5-7
Held annually in memory of iconic Irish singer Joe Éinniú (aka Joe Heaney), who was born in Carna, the festival returns this year with sean nós singing, a céilí, concerts, some great sessions and more. You can expect an exciting variety of performers, both young and old, from right across the country for the 2023 edition.
FÉILE RÓISE RUA
Arranmore, Co. Donegal. May 19-21
Honouring the legacy of Irish singer Róise na nAmhrán (1879-1964), who moved to Arranmore Island as a young girl, the festival is celebrating its fourth year in action with some fantastic special guests. Over the course of the weekend, you can look forward to Síle Denvir, Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, Zoé Basha, Kevin McGonigle, Edwina Guckian, Seán Gavin, Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair, Tara Conaghan, Peter Crann and Richie Piggott.
Ennis, Co. Clare. May 27-June 5
Since 1974, Ennis has been home to one of the most celebrated and innovative traditional festivals in the country. It’s grown dramatically over the decades, with this year’s edition featuring a jam-packed schedule of concerts, céilís, sessions, CD launches, recitals, sean-nós dancing, street entertainment and more.
FÉILE NA GEALAÍ
Ráth Chairn, Co. Meath. June 9-11
Celebrating the unique contemporary culture of the Irish language, the camping festival returns to Meath’s Ráth Chairn Gaeltacht with some of the most boundary-pushing artists currently making music on these shores and beyond. Get ready for music from Pólca 4, Valtos, IMLÉ & Róisín Seoighe, The Len Collective, Boss Sound Manifesto, Emma Ní Fhíoruise, Grooveline, Lonesome George, Ciarán & Éamonn Mac Donncha, and more.
JIM DOWLING FESTIVAL
Glengarriff, Co. Cork. June 15-18
West Cork’s famed uilleann pipe and traditional music festival brings together some of the country’s leading musicians for a thrilling few days of sessions, workshops and other special events – all taking place in the stunning coastal village of Glengarriff. The festival features concerts in local venues, as well as out on the waters of Bantry Bay.
Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. June 23-25
Some of the finest musicians from Waterford and beyond are set to converge in Dungarvan this summer, for the latest edition of TuneFest. Dervish, Ímar and Danú are just some of the acts set to dazzle fans at this year’s festival – which will also feature plenty of sessions, concerts, recitals and CD launches, as well as workshops with Tara Breen, Nuala Kennedy, Liam O’Brien, Diarmuid Ó Meachair, Enda Scahill and Colm Phelan.
SCOIL SAMHRAIDH WILLIE CLANCY
Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. July 1–9
The world-renowned traditional Irish music, song and dance festival returns to Miltown Malbay in July, with a wide range of events taking place throughout the week – including instrument and dance classes, lectures, workshops, recitals and céilís. The programme for this year’s 51st Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy includes a special tribute event for Mary Bergin, one of the great masters of the tin whistle.
Gweedore, Co. Donegal. July 7 & 8
A two-day music festival by the sea, in Gweedore’s Big Top (with camping available nearby), Sult is a community-based festival that attracts plenty of big-name headliners. Featuring local volunteers from the parish – including the parish priest, Fr Brian – all profits from Sult go back into the community, with over €20,000 raised in recent years. This year's line-up includes stars like Dean Lewis, LYRA, Ash, Jenny Greene, Chasing Abbey, and HamsandwicH, as well as beloved Donegal acts like Reevah, Humble Earthworm, and Larabelle.
BALLINA SALMON FESTIVAL
Ballina, Co. Mayo. July 8-15
This family-oriented festival showcases everything that the ‘Salmon Capital of Ireland’ has to offer. A key event in the local social calendar, it’s been running since 1964 – making it the oldest community festival along the Wild Atlantic Way. You can expect this year’s festival to be one to remember, as one of the signature events of Ballina 2023, marking the 300th anniversary of the official founding of the town.
EARAGAIL ARTS FESTIVAL
Co. Donegal. July 8-23
This multidisciplinary festival embraces both the Irish and English language across 16 days of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival. Showcasing artists from the locality and much further afield, the unique festival takes place throughout Co. Donegal, in purpose-built venues as well as village halls, forests and beaches. This year's line-up includes Lisa O'Neill, Usher's Island, The Henry Girls and more.
BRÓD NA GAELTACHTA
Cloich Cheann Fhaola, Co. Donegal. July 16-23
Following the success of its inaugural edition last year, this community-organised, bilingual Pride festival is set to make its eagerly anticipated return this summer – celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Co. Donegal’s Cloich Cheann Fhaola Gaeltacht and the surrounding areas. You can expect the inclusive festival, founded by actor and activist Pól Penrose, to once again feature plays, music, poetry, lectures, classes, walks, workshops and more.
SCOIL ACLA SUMMER SCHOOL
Achill Island, Co. Mayo. July 22-29
Presented by Scoil Acla – an organisation that promotes traditional arts on Achill Island – this annual Summer School brings hundreds of students, tutors and artists to the area every year. First set up in 1910, and relaunched in 1985, the event is an opportunity to learn from some of the top musicians in the country, practise your Irish, and attend some inspiring concerts and recitals, all while soaking in the beauty of the island.
SOUTH GALWAY BAY MUSIC FESTIVAL
Ballinderreen, Co. Galway. July 28-30
Once a firm fixture on showbands’ touring schedules, the village of Ballinderreen launched this music festival last year with the aim of reigniting the spirit of live music in the area. Following the success of that 2022 event, they’re returning with an even bigger festival, taking place across three days – featuring headline acts Mike Denver, Gerry Guthrie, Derek Ryan, Johnny Brady, The Tumbling Paddies and Olivia Douglas.
DURROW SCARECROW FESTIVAL
Durrow, Co. Laois. July 30-August 7
Continuing to get bigger and better with each year, this unique, community-centred festival has proven to be a major hit with visitors to the beautiful Georgian village. The highlight of the family-friendly celebration – which takes place across nine full days, and raises funds for the locality – is the All-Ireland Scarecrow Championship, featuring hundreds of scarecrows from across the country competing to win the grand prize.
SEAN McCARTHY MEMORIAL WEEKEND
Finuge, Co. Kerry. August 4-7
Honouring the legacy of ballad singer and songwriter Sean McCarthy, a native of Finuge, the festival returns to the Co. Kerry village this August, with music, competitions and more in store. The art of ballad-writing remains one of the key features of the celebrations, with songwriters battling it out to take home the top prize in the Sean McCarthy Ballad Competition.
Feakle, Co. Clare. August 9-14
Returning to Feakle for its 36th edition, the festival promises a long weekend full of music, song and dance. As the home of the famed East Clare style, the area is steeped in traditional music, which is reflected in its programme each year – featuring some of the finest musicians in the country taking part in concerts, workshops, sessions and more. 2023's headliners include Martin Hayes; Rick Epping; Meabh, Eoin & Níall Begley; Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and more.
FÉILE AN PHOBAIL
West Belfast. August (exact dates to be confirmed)
Originally set up back in 1988 as a direct response to the conflict in the North – aiming to celebrate and highlight the community’s passion for the arts – Féile an Phobail is now Ireland’s largest community arts festival. As well as offering a year-round programme of events, its flagship August festival remains one of highlights of the summer, featuring an eclectic mix of major concerts, debates, discussions, exhibitions, sporting events and more.
CAPE CLEAR STORYTELLING FESTIVAL
Cape Clear, Co. Cork. September 1-3
First launched in 1994 in an effort to keep the Irish tradition of storytelling alive, this festival has continued to build up a world-renowned reputation for its remarkably diverse and highly entertaining annual programme – taking place in the beautiful Gaeltacht area of Cape Clear Island, which is the southernmost inhabited part of Ireland. You can look forward to appearances from some of the most accomplished storytellers from Ireland and around the world at this year’s festival – including Donna Washington (US), Tom Muir (Orkney Islands), Máirín Mhic Lochlainn (Ireland) and more.
CLIFDEN ARTS FESTIVAL
Clifden, Co. Galway. September 14-24
Now heading into its 46th year, this is the longest-running community arts festival in the country. Based in the heart of Connemara, you can once again expect a top-quality programme for 2023 – coming soon! – with offerings to excite and inspire audiences of all ages and interests. There’s a good reason why Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has described the festival as “Ireland’s best-kept secret…”
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