Special performances in a special venue - flashback to last year's festival in the cathedral in Ballaghaderreen. Photo: Ballaghaderreen Arts Festival 24 Facebook page

Unique and eclectic Ballaghaderreen Arts Festival returns

THEY said it couldn’t be done. Such was the success of the arts festival in Ballaghaderreen last August, people said it could not be repeated. The organisers of the Ballaghaderreen Arts Festival '24, however, beg to differ.

What is on offer this year - between Saturday, August 3, and Sunday, August 11 - is even better.

A flavour includes Vivaldi in the cathedral with a 12-piece orchestra, led by Ireland’s best-known conductor David Brophy, with a world premiere of 'An Irish Four Seasons’ by leading Irish cellist Alibhe McDonagh.

Blues and Trad at the Cathedral involves Ireland’s greatest jazz and blues singer, Mary Coughlan. Performing that night too will be Lúnasa, described as 'the hottest Irish acoustic band on the planet'.

In addition there will be the outstanding Cora and Breda Smyth who won over 40 titles for fiddle and tin whistle playing as children in competitions. Cora played fiddle on Ireland's winning 1996 Eurovision entry, 'The Voice’ (sung by Eimear Quinn). while both women toured the world playing on Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames productions.

A highlight of the festival for all sports fans this year will be the GAA Night when retired RTÉ journalist Tommie Gorman conducts a public interview with outstanding football manager Jim Gavin, who led Dublin to win an unprecedented five All-Ireland senior titles in a row between 2015 to 2019 (inclusive).

Drama will bookend the nine days which begin with the incomparable Ballaghaderreen Players who, under the astute direction of Julie Sharkey, present that very black Martin McDonagh comedy 'The Cripple of Inishmaan'. In 1998 Ballaghaderreen woman Garry Hynes of Druid was the first woman ever to win a Tony Award on Broadway for direction, of The Beauty Queen of Lennane’, also by Martin McDonagh.

And on the second festival weekend, London’s Pilgrim Players will present Shakespeare's comedy 'As You Like It' at Edmondstown House, with matinee and evening performances.

On Film Night, Gerardine O’Mahony will interview - with movie clips - Ireland’s longest serving film censor and Ballaghaderreen man, Sheamus Smith, who freed the Irish people to see Monty Python’s 'The Life of Brian’, which was banned up to then. Sheamus picked up his passion for the movies growing up in Ballaghaderrreen, went to Hollywood as a young man and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Ballaghaderreen Cathedral Choir will present 'Happy Birthday Percy French’, a tribute to one of Ireland’s most popular songwriters and entertainers, born at Clooneyquin, near Tulsk, 170 years ago. Among his best-known songs are 'The Mountains of Mourne', 'Are Ya Right There Michael?', 'Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff', and 'Phil the Fluther's Ball'.

Other festival events include Finn McCumhaill - a children's opera, with local schoolchildren, as well as a puppet show for younger people, while an art exhibition in Mulligan's windows on Main Street throughout the festival will include works by leading painters Malachy Costello, Siobhán Cox Carlos, Michael Wann, and 'local Michelangelo’ Conor O'Connell. There will also be workshops for artists and writers in the afternoons.

Concluding it all will be Stand-Up at Edmondstown House on Sunday evening, August 11, headlined by the outrageous David McSavage.

There is so much more. Further details and ticket availability will be provided in coming weeks.