Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival
Arguably the best little festival in the West of Ireland, the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, in association with Fáilte Ireland and Destination Westport, returns this month from June 8th – 10th.
For over eleven years the festival has featured acts from America, the UK, continental Europe and of course Ireland – north and south.
The festival is organised by a small voluntary committee of music lovers who take great care in bringing the finest musicians playing traditional and contemporary bluegrass, old time and various styles of folk music.
The festival spans three days and will feature dozens of gigs, plenty of jam sessions, master-classes and workshops and a luthiers’ showcase, featuring local instrument makers showcasing their craft. There is also a programme of concerts and workshops specifically for kids.
Festival goers can enjoy a variety of artists as they wander around the town, where most of the performances are free and in local pubs and restaurants. In addition, every day features an opportunity to attend a special concert event.
On Friday night, the main gathering takes place at the Holy Trinity Church for an evening of artists who specialize in old time music, featuring string bands and combos playing old American tunes and songs as well as contemporary sounds based in that rich tradition. The trio of Ben Paley, Tab Hunter and Dan Edwards as well as a 6-piece band, The Buffalo Gals, headline this event.
On Saturday night, the fabulous Westport Town Hall Theatre is the location for a grand concert of the finest traditional and contemporary bluegrass artists, featuring an all international bluegrass line-up of Hot Rock Pilgrims (UK), The Gold Heart Sisters (USA) and G-runs n’ Roses (Czech Republic).
As a farewell, Sunday evening will be spent at festival patron, Matt Molloy’s famous yard bar where The Clew Bay Folk Club will host a special evening of folk music headlined by Irish folk singer, Daoiri Farrell, winner of 2 BBC Folk Radio Awards in 2017.
Three of the highlights of previous years will also make a come-back: The Red Room Presents ‘The Mystery Gig’, three of the festival’s acts will take to the stage at Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar, but the crowd won’t know who they are until they show up!; Tim Rogers & Friends will return for an Old Time session – Tim Rogers is the only artist to play this festival every year since the first one in 2007 and his session, where he invites different musicians to join him, is always a fantastic celebration of music; The Gospel Hour – for the last few years over 300 people have packed out the Holy Trinity Church in town for an hour of gospel music on Sunday morning.
Following on the success of last year’s kids’ show, this year, the festival will host another family show, featuring Bernie Pháid from the cultural wellsprings of the West Kerry Gaeltacht and Galway native, Dave Clancy. There is also a new feature to the festival this year, on Sunday, June 10th, Westport Town Hall will open its doors for the festival’s first Square Dance. This is a common feature in bluegrass festivals all over the world and all dance lovers will be welcomed to this great event.
The festival atmosphere is warm and open, where everyone – all generations, cultures and walks of life, locals and visitors – feel included and, most importantly, have fun. The audience consists of everyone from seasoned folk and bluegrass ‘buffs’ to casual music fans, plus people just out for the craic.