‘From Shakespeare without a set under the sky to secret performances in civic spaces and everything in between, the festival thrills’ The Irish Times
‘One of the jewels in the arts calendar’s crown’ Irish Daily Mail
Kilkenny Arts Festival is one of the leading festivals in Ireland, celebrated for its effortless blend of tradition and innovation, and for its electrifying range of events, staged in some of the country’s loveliest venues.
Since its foundation in 1974, Kilkenny Arts Festival has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city. For ten days each August, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.
From outdoor theatre to contemporary dance, the Festival is dedicated to staging events of the highest calibre, thrilling audiences of all kinds. Classical music has been at the core of the Festival from the very beginning, with concerts featuring globally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de los Angeles, Alfred Brendel, Jordi Savall, Steven Isserlis, Dawn Upshaw, Nigel Kennedy and Joshua Bell, among many others.
In recent years the Festival has enriched its music programme with major new initiatives like The Marble City Sessions, a cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations featuring a range of artists, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish traditional musician Martin Hayes.
Indeed, artist residencies now lie at the heart of everything the Festival does, offering a combination of continuity and innovation that gives the Festival its unique spirit. The Festival’s orchestra-in-residence, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, collaborates with leading national and international performers on a range of concerts combining the traditional with the thrillingly modern, while in recent years the position of poet-in-residence has been graced by everyone from Paula Meehan and Eavan Boland to Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.
Kilkenny is spoiled with some of Ireland’s most magnificent historic spaces, such as St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey– sites of countless breathtaking concerts – and the Castle Yard, home to dazzling theatrical productions by the likes of Rough Magic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Druid Theatre. From St John’s Priory to the Set Theatre, few festivals can boast such a wealth of venues, and the Kilkenny Arts Festival is constantly devising unique events for the city’s hidden gems.