Kilkenny Arts Festival’s Killer Programme

Kilkenny Arts Festival returns August 8 – 18, boasting a programme packed with a diverse array of theatre, music, literature, exhibitions, talks, dance, spectacle and surprise.

Since its foundation in 1974, the event has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city. This year is no different. One major headliner this August is acclaimed Irish actor Ciaran Hinds (pictured). He will take to the stage to play narrator, soldier and devil in a concert performance of Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Soldier’s Tale at The Watergate Theatre.

Kilkenny Arts Festival, through co-productions and supporting companies, continues to bring new works to the stage. This year the festival will collaborate with leading independent theatre company Rough Magic on two new productions.

Much Ado About Nothing

The first is a contemporary staging of Shakespeare’s beloved screwball comedy Much Ado About Nothing, performed at The Quad at St Kieran’s College. The other is Cleft, by Fergal McElherron, a dark, visceral, folkloric tale about one family’s unrelenting will to survive. Starring Simone Kirby (The Hole in the Ground), it will be staged at The Watergate Theatre.

Asylum Productions, Kilkenny Arts Festival with the support of the Abbey Theatre will present the world premiere of a unique theatrical experience, The Big Chapel X. Based on The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy, it’s a fictionalised retelling of real events that occurred in the 1870s in Callan, Kilkenny. This radical adaptation sees the people of the town (supported by a team of professional theatre artists) retelling their own story, using the place itself as a stage.

This will be accompanied by a special programme of events exploring the impact of Kilkenny on Kilroy’s work, the unique challenges of staging the production in Callan and an architecture project which reimagines Callan’s regeneration and redevelopment as a pilot town for Project Ireland 2040.

As well as lighting up stages and venues, this year the festival will brighten up two of the city’s most iconic spaces. The walls of Kilkenny Castle will be lit up by a light show with panoramic viewing at the Rose Garden. Meanwhile, a multi-sensory experience titled Flux will take place inside St Canice’s Cathedral – mixing screens, projection, live organ, live electronics and tape.

The festival’s classical music programme offers a mix of debuts and returning talent performing works from the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Listz and Mozart. There will also be a special screening of the 1931 Dracula with a live score composed and performed by Sean MacErlaine leading a quartet of musicians and singer Sharon Phelan.

In terms of visual arts, the festival will present the first exhibition in Ireland of New York-based artist Amy Cutler, as well as works from the locally based Eamon Colman and Blaise Smith. There will also be group exhibitions taking place at the National Design and Craft Gallery (Crowded Thresholds) and the Kilkenny Arts Office Gallery (The Encounter That Never Was).

A programme of spoken word will see readings from poets Don Peterson, Mícheál ‘Moley’ O’Súilleabháin and Cherry Smyth, the latter delivering a lyrical lament to the forgotten stories of the Irish famine with Famished. Author Niamh Boyce will also read from her acclaimed new novel Her Kind – a gripping account of the Kilkenny witch trial – while famed journalist Fintan O’Toole discusses the ongoing Brexit dramatics through the prism of his widely acclaimed book Heroic Failure.

A varied music programme will see new interpretations of old favourites, the return of familiar faces and the chance to discover new work.  For example, classical musicians Wooden Elephant will perform their own interpretation of two iconic and instantly classic albums, Bjork’s Homogenic and Radiohead’s masterpiece Kid A.

Mark and Marichka Marczyk

Mark and Marichka Marczyk return to the festival with brand new show Balaklava Blues, mixing vocals and electronic dance beats against a backdrop of footage from the front lines of Ukraine’s Maidan revolution, transporting the audience into the war-torn country.

Visitors can also experience the Rollercoaster Sessions. Here audiences can discover two up-and-coming bands from the thriving music scenes of Kilkenny and Dublin in a double bill –  The Wha and Sick Love. On top of this, there will be gigs from the soulful David Keenan, one of rock’s most singular performers Cathal Coughlan, American indie band Arborist and art-folk electronic musician Seamus Fogarty.

Returning too is Secret Garden Music, a strand of ever surprising mini pop-up performances by festival artists in some of Kilkenny’s loveliest spaces. No details of performers taking part are announced in advance. You never know who might turn up.

For more information, details of other events taking place at Kilkenny Arts Festival and to purchase tickets, visit

Featured Image Credit – Rory Lewis

Comments are closed.