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Belfast TradFest ready to bring the city alive with the sound of traditional music

Date: 23 Jun 2022

Category: Things to do

Sharon Shannon helps to launch Belfast TradFest 2022

Belfast TradFest returns with a jam-packed week full of traditional music, song and dance, featuring some of the best traditional musicians, singers and dancers from across these islands from July 23-29.

This week-long event, featuring a summer school and a full programme of concerts, workshops, talks, lectures, sessions, céilís and festival club, is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland and brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions, in a shared celebration of culture and heritage.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christina Black said: “Belfast City Council is delighted to be supporting this year’s Belfast TradFest - a unique celebration of our Irish and Ulster-Scots musical traditions. As a UNESCO City of Music, Belfast is now recognised across the world for its unique and diverse music scene – and traditional music is a big part of that. Good luck to all the musicians and performers taking part and congratulations to the organisers on what looks to be a fantastic and varied line-up featuring some of the best traditional musicians, singers and dancers from Belfast and beyond.”

Dónal O’Connor Artistic Director of Belfast TradFest said: "Belfast TradFest is a distinctive and progressive music festival which reflects and nourishes the traditional music of the whole community of the North, by representing both the Irish and Scots musical traditions. With the burgeoning number of traditional musicians and venues across the city, plus the incredible quality and creativity amongst young players of all instruments and ages, Belfast is fast becoming the traditional music capital of Ireland. Belfast TradFest invites locals and visitors to join us in celebrating our cultural richness while embracing the Giant Spirit that traditional music has to offer. On behalf of the festival I would like to thank our supporters Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and Tourism NI, without whom this event wouldn’t be possible.”

Festival headliner and set to be an ‘I was there moment’ is Sharon Shannon Big Band and Liam Ó Maonlaí  at Ulster Hall on Friday July 29. Opening the show will be Hothouse Flowers’ frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí, performing a rare solo set with Grand Piano, Bodhrán and Tin Whistle followed by Sharon Shannon’s eclectic six piece band.

Belfast TradFest events will run across many of the city’s well known venues: The Fiddle Monologues Sunday July 24 at The Black Box is a play that focuses on four women from 1679, 1789, 1889 and 1959 and their relationship with the violin.  Song and Fiddle Sunday July 24 at The John Hewitt with Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne, Sinead McKenna. Dervish frontwoman Cathy Jordan brings her trio ‘The Unwanted’ to The Black Box Sunday July 24. A tribute to the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 takes place on Tuesday July 26 at  Áras Mhic Reachtain and will feature world renowned harpist Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Australian guitar virtuoso Steve Cooney.  With Fife & Drum Tuesday July 26 at Strand Arts Centre explores the traditions of Scotland and Ireland with some of the world’s finest pipers and drummers. Ceoil Beirte Wednesday July 27 at An Droichead  features Ciarán & Caitlín and Barry Kerr & Síle Denvir amongst others.  World class traditional flute players and whistlers such as TG4 Gradam Ceoil musicians of the year Harry Bradley and Mary Bergin, feature at Flutopia Thursday July 28 at The Deer’s Head. Thursday July 28 showcases two emerging artists Dàibhidh Stiùbhard and Miadhachlughain O'Donnell at the SunFlower Folk Club. Ta Bean In Éirinn will be a celebration of the finest female traditional musicians, singers and dancers in Ireland, such as Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Caitlín Níc Gabhann and TG4 Gradam Ceoil recipient Edwina Guckian, on Thursday July 28 at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich.

Make sure you also look out for the Belfast TradFest Session Trail running across a wide range of venues, featuring over 40 sessions, all free admission. Belfast TradFest partners with Belfast Pride to host the Pride Céilí with music by Ciaran Kelly and Friends and with dances called by Ronan Eastwood at Oh Yeah Music Centre Wednesday July 27. TradFest Festival Club will be a rip-roaring late night hot spot with trad luminaries including Gino Lupari of Four Men and a Dog, Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor, Damien Mullane and local trio Briste and Troda. 

A cornerstone of Belfast TradFest is the summer school, which is five days of  masterclasses, Monday-Friday July 25-29 10am–1pm, at Ulster University, York Street. The summer school’s team of tutors is made up of internationally renowned performers with proven track records as teachers and educationalists across music, song and dance. There are a range of classes to suit all ages and abilities from beginners to advanced. Masterclass attendees can also avail of a fantastic accommodation offer from festival partner Liv, the new accommodation at the Ulster University, Belfast campus.

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