The annual Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival runs in a host of towns, villages and rural communities throughout South and SW Donegal, from Friday, September 26 to Sunday, October 5.
An annual, high profile focus for the arts in the south of the county, the Festival is presented by Donegal County Council and supported by The Arts Council. The Festival programme includes touring theatre, traditional music and dance, literary events, visual arts, arts in schools, a carnival parade as well as classical and contemporary music performances.
The official Festival Opening will take place at The Abbey Arts Centre, Ballyshannon on Saturday night, September 27 from 7.30pm and will include the launch of a new solo Exhibition by award-winning East Donegal artist Ann Quinn and a performance by the Donegal Youth Choir, fresh from their recent appearance at Electric Picnic and with a repertoire of songs to match!
Carnival Weekend & Sunday Miscellany
This year’s Carnival Weekend in Ballyshannon will include the fabulous Wild Atlantic Way-themed Carnival Parade on Saturday night, October 4 and the highly anticipated return of the RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’ live recordings at The Abbey Arts Centre, on Sunday afternoon, October 5. Confirmed writer participants to-date include Moya Cannon, Anthony Glavin and Pat Boran. Among the participating musicians will be Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Marie Askin, Martin McGinley and the Donegal Camerata String Ensemble.
Further literary events will include the Night For Noelle Vial event at The Bayview Hotel, Killybegs on Friday, September 26, where the featured artist will be the winner of the inaugural Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Bursary (2013), Inishowen poet Jenni Doherty.
The festival theatre programme will include Balor Rep Theatre Company’s First World War drama, ‘Remembrances’, An Grianán Theatre’s brand new production of Patrick McCabe’s ‘Frank Pig Says Hello’ ( the stage adaptation of his best-selling novel, The Butcher Boy ) , the Ulster Theatre Company’s Dracula, as well as Donegal Drama Circle’s new production of John B. Keane’s classic comedy, Moll, seen by many as the forerunner of hugely popular TV comedy series, Father Ted.
Theatre performances will take place in Ballyshannon, Ballybofey, Pettigo, Donegal Town, Glenties and Glencolmcille.
This year’s festival music programme will be one of the strongest yet and will feature concert performances by The Henry Girls, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Little John Nee & the Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra, as well as emerging new local talent in the form of Slow Skies (Glenties/Dublin), Fiona Maria Fitzpatrick and the Darling Buds of… (Bundoran/Cavan) and Eve Belle (Gortahork). Festival concerts will take place in Dunkineely, Ballybofey, Kilcar, Ballyshannon and Ardara.
Johnny Doherty and Donegal Fiddlers Gathering
The Festival is book-ended by two major traditional music and dance weekend events in Ardara and Glenties, with whom it works very closely.
The Johnny Doherty Traditional Music and Dancing Weekend is organised by the local Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann branch in Ardara and it runs from Friday to Sunday, September 26-28. This year, the main concert events will include award-wining Scots Gaelic singer Rachel Walker on Friday night , Irish American supergroup Cherish The Ladies on Saturday night and The Friel Sisters (Glasgow) on Sunday evening. Over the three days, there’s a full programme of music sessions and facilitated céilí, set and old time dancing workshops and dances.
The second weekend of the festival sees the annual Donegal Fiddlers Gathering taking place at The Highlands Hotel, Glenties, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, October 3-5. An exuberant celebration of Donegal fiddle playing now it its 32nd. year, it is organised by Cairdeas na bFidléirí, the Donegal Fiddlers Association. The Gathering will include lots of informal sessions, talks, masterclasses, a guided tour, and a big Gala Concert on Saturday night, October 4 featuring top local players with visiting special guests including Douglas Lawrence from the North East of Scotland and Nigel and Diana Boullier from Co. Down.
Free Festival Programme
The free Festival Programme is widely available throughout the South and South West of the county. It contains full details of all festival events, workshops and the festival’s very popular schools programme. Look out for it in local shops, libraries, hotels, restaurants, tourist information points and at all participating venues.