Irish Festivals

Cork Midsummer Festival began today and from here on in, it’s wall-to-wall theatre festivals until November! Here’s a brief look at what’s going on around the country over the next few months. All or almost all, of these festivals are looking for volunteers which is a great way to get involved in a festival and see a few shows for free!

juneCork Midsummer, 21st – 30 June
I will be heading to Cork next Tuesday for the Theatre Forum’s Open Space event (come along if you can, it’s free and open to anyone working in the arts, book your ticket here) and hoping to see Deep which is a new show from Ray Scannell (who wrote and performed Mimic and composed the music for Alice in Funderland) and directed by Louise Lowe (Anu Productions). The collabaration between Una McKevitt and Rimini Protokoll 100% Cork also sounds very interesting. There’s another change to catch Amy Conroy’s I ♥ Alice ♥ I and Cure by Fearghus Ó Conchúir, as well as Carmel Winters’ new play Best Man. There’s a really interesting mix of things with lots of work from Irish artists, loads of visual art and music and plenty of interesting special events, including a (free) late edition – The Shakey Bridge Listening Project.

Earagail Arts Festival, 21 June – 21 July
This month-long festival takes place all over Donegal and includes arts offerings of every persuasion! Since I’ve just come back from a couple of days in Derry, which included a reception in the stunningly beautiful Guildhall, I have to mention The Freedom of the City, Brian’s Friel’s play set in that historic place. Destination Doughnut is a theatrical bus journey around the Inishowen Peninsula and the lovely and talented Ponydance will be performing Where did it all go right? in West Donegal. There are loads of other things happen as well, from free Yoga Workshops in Letterkenny to an evening of cabaret and cuisine.

july10 Days in Dublin, 4th – 13 July
10 Days in Dublin is only a few years old but it is a festival that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It is very much a multi-disciplinary festival and this year’s programme includes everything from Short Films in the Sugar Club to the Trinity Orchestra plays Michael Jackson and Queen, as well as a huge theatre and dance programme. And all very reasonably priced!

Clonmel Junction Festival – 5-14 July
Junction has a fairly music-heavy programme this year but there are also some beautiful theatre on offer as well. If you haven’t had a chance to see Pat Kinevane in action yet, or have seen Silent and want to see him work his magic again, go and see Fishamble’s Forgotten. I missed The Animals and the Children Took to the Streets when it was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2011, but I heard some great things about it. I was fortunate enough to Fred and Alice in Bewley’s Cafe Theatre last year and it is a lovely show – sweet and sad and funny, with great performances from Cora Fenton and Ciaran Bermingham.

Kinsale Arts Festival – 6-14 July
Kinsale Arts Festival has some wonderful shows on offer, including White Rabbit, Red Rabbit performed by Mark O’Halloran (who was sublime in Dubliners last year) on July 8 and Fionnula Flanagan (Who has been wonderful in everything from The Others to Waking Ned) on July 10. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a show where the actor performing it has not seen the script. They step onstage with no idea what’s going to happen over the next hour. I saw Stephen Rea perform it during last year’s Fringe and it is a surreal and heart-breaking piece of theatre. For a show that’s more heart-warming than heart-breaking, go see Fishamble’s The Wheelchair on my Face by Sonya Kelly. Other things catching my eye are The Future Show by Deborah Pearson, an artist that I have heard good things about, but I haven’t had a chance to see her work yet, and The Bear because I have a great fondness for Chekhov’s farces!

Galway Fringe Festival, 12-30 July
There seems to be a lot of cross-over between 10 Days in Dublin and the Galway Fringe Festival this year, which means that a whole lot of new companies will be performing on the east and west coast this July, which I think is very exciting. Galway Fringe Festival has lots of new theatre work and lots of music, installations, dance and a few workshops as well! And Galway is a wonderful city, particularly during festival time!

Galway Arts Festival, 15-28 July
And if you can’t find anything that tickles your fancy in the Galway Fringe, and you have a bit more money to spend, there’s always the Galway Arts Festival! Personally, I’m really looking forward to Fabulous Beast’s new shows The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. There’s loads of great music happening in the Big Top, which is a great venue. Howie the Rookie which opened in Dublin this week and is getting great reviews (and deservedly so, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is fantastic and the script is tight as a drum) is on in An Taibhdhearc. There’s no Macnus parade this year but there’s still lots of other free, outdoor spectacles to enjoy, including flying trapeze in Eyre Square.

augustSpraoi, August 2-4
Spraoi is Waterford’s International Street Arts Festival. I’ve never been but looking at the website, it seems that everything is free and everything happens on the streets. They also have a whole lot going on over the Bank Holiday weekend. There’s fireworks and interactive games, a brand new show from Paper Dolls, an Australian strong woman and the Spraoi Parade – and it all looks fantastic!

Big House Festival – 3-5 August
This is the first year of the Big House Festival, which is set in the house and parklands of Castletown House, in Celbridge, Co Kildare. The experience (and pricing) is more like a music festival than a traditional theatre festival, as you buy a day-ticket and spend the day in the grounds seeing as much or as little of the various events as you like. Some of the things on offer are the Big House Parliament, WillFredd Theatre’s award-winning Farm and Out and About with Pietr Kloon, a Theatre Lovett show.

Kilkenny Arts Festival, 9-18 August
This is another festival that I have not yet had a chance to visit, but I’ve very tempted this year by the all-female The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company. It’s one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and it will be performed on an outdoor stage in the Castle Yard. Olwen Fouéré’s riverrun takes as it’s inspiration Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. And for something completely different, there is the Miracoco – a light-filled, inflatable sculpture that visitors will be able to wander freely inside.

septemberDublin Fringe Festival, 7-22 September
Once we hit September, things get a little hazy because none of these festivals have announced their programmes yet. But I confidently expect great things from the Dublin Fringe who  I’m sure will deliver an exciting programme of new work from established Irish artists, international theatre-makers and some brand new talent as well! This will be Festival Director Róise Goan’s final festival which makes it bitter-sweet.

Westport Arts Festival, Sept 27 – Oct 6
Again, no programme as of yet and another festival that I have never been to! So I can very little about the Westport Arts Festival at this stage.

Dublin Theatre Festival, 26 September – 13 October
Another one of my favourites and another one which hasn’t realised the programme yet. No doubt it will be wonderful though!

octoberGalway Theatre Festival, September 30 – October 6
The Galway Theatre Festival recently acquired a new Festival Director and this will be the lovely Kate Costello’s first programme. There is so much exciting work being made in Galway right now that I’m sure this will be a very special festival. And a change to see Galway outside the hectic summer months!

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, 14-20 October
Technically Baboró is a festival for children but there are usually a few shows ideally suited to the young at heart as well! They live up to their name and include lots of international work and there’s often a few workshops to get involved in as well!

Belfast Festival at Queens, 18 Oct – 3 November
This is another festival with a new Director, the recently appointed Richard Wakely. And seems to be the last festival in the calender! It’s all Christmas markets after this.

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