Kilkenny Arts Festival: Bringing The Bard back to Kilkenny

“O, how full of briars is this working-day world!” (As You Like It)

“O, how full of briars is this working-day world!” (As You Like It)

It’s a sentiment we’re all familiar with (even if we mightn’t quite put it that way). In these straitened times, there’s nothing like a festival to lift the spirits, and when that festival is a world-class confection of art, music, literature and drama on your very doorstep, what more incentive do you need? Year after year, Kilkenny Arts Festival has brought you the very best in home-grown and international acts, and this year is no exception, so if you’re looking for nine days of inspiration, stimulation and surprise, look no further than Kilkenny!

“All the world’s a stage”, says Jaques in As You Like It, but there are few better stages than the Castle Yard, where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will set up camp throughout the festival to offer nine performances of the bard’s gloriously funny romance. The prospect of seeing one of the world’s great theatre companies performing on long summer nights in the heart of our mediaeval city is one of the most exciting in recent years, so if you’re looking for a truly special festival experience, this will be hard to beat!

And that’s only the start. Whether you want to learn to write a bestseller, spend an evening with Mike Scott, or dance the night away with the best wedding band you’re ever likely to meet, this year’s festival has something for you. Our dedicated curators have scoured the globe to bring you fresh talent in every strand and, for the first time, we’ve added opera to the feathers in our cap, with Cork Opera House’s cutting-edge production of Dido and Aeneas. With a dynamic new score and international stars, this is a must for opera buffs and newcomers alike!

This year’s festival is all about mixing it up, and we’ve got some mouth-watering musical collaborations in store. St Canice’s plays host to a spectacular concert mixing West and East classical traditions as singer Bombay Jayashri joins an extraordinary Finnish-Indian quartet. There’s more groundbreaking collaboration in the shape of Dán, a unique project bringing together traditional musicians from Ireland, Scotland, England and Brittany, while in the Set young Donegal trio Fidil join forces with kora-player Solo Cissokho for an unforgettable night blending tradition and innovation, and Kate Ellis brings her new multimedia ensemble Resound, mixing poetry, visuals, and laid-back electro-acoustic sounds.

Kilkenny Arts Festival has always sought out new spaces in our wonderful city, and this year we’re putting on shows in some 39 venues right across town, from classical concerts in St Canice’s to hurdy-gurdy gigs in the Hole in the Wall. At the Still Point showcases the work of eight cutting-edge Irish film and video artists – all women – in venues all over the city, and there’s more film when the Darklight Circus Tour brings the best of the Darklight Film Festival to Kilkenny. In the National Craft Gallery Utensil gathers no fewer than 23 leading international craft-makers for an exhibition inspired by the humble kitchen, and the food theme continues with Hot Potatoes, a mouth-watering series of debates in which leading food writers, bloggers and critics juggle the burning issues of our time. There’s more talking to be done in Literature, where the award-winning journalist and historian Misha Glenny looks back on the siege of Sarajevo, while distinguished panels mark both ends of this decade of centenaries with sessions examining Home Rule and the War of Independence in Kilkenny.

If you want to get more involved, we’ve a wonderful array of workshops for adults and children this year. Kids will love The Imagination Song Machine with composer extraordinaire Brian Irvine, and The Ideas Shop will help those budding authors get their imaginations on paper. The Festival Trail – such a big hit with families – is back again with more prizes to win, so download the trail map from and start exploring!

In these tough economic times, we’re offering a number of great special deals to help you get to Festival events. For details go online at or call in to our box office at 16 John Street. You can also become a Festival Member and reap the rewards!

I’d like to thank our Festival team, led by our wonderful new director Rosemary Collier, and all our curators for their hard work and commitment. I’d also like to acknowledge the generous support of our main sponsors, The Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland, the Kilkenny Local Authorities and the Crafts Council of Ireland, along with all our corporate individual sponsors. Finally, a special word of thanks to all our hard-working volunteers, without whom we wouldn’t have a festival of such calibre.

There’s so much more to tell you about, but I’ll leave it to our peerless team of curators. Suffice it to say that, in these troubled times, when we are “out of suits with fortune”, we’re proud and delighted to be bringing you one of the best and biggest festivals ever, packed with dozens of reasonably-priced events. How do we do it? Thereby hangs a tale.