The Henry Girls launched the 2017 Earagail Arts Festival with a series of photo shoots in Gaoth Dobhair, Letterkenny and Inishowen. Photo: Brian McDaid
The 2017 Earagail Arts Festival was launched last week with a series of photo shoots in Gweedore, Letterkenny and Inishowen featuring The Henry Girls.
As it’s a quiet enough week elsewhere and the Earagail festival is just around the corner, I thought this would be an opportune time to take a look at what’s on offer. Here’s some quick thoughts on this year's line-up.
The festival begins with "At Home With The Henry Girls" – a five-day interactive residency where the Inishowen folk group host a series of songwriting workshops, cultural and culinary tours and traditional pub sessions along with three concerts. It’s a novel idea and a great concept, and hats off to the organisers for some real outside-the-box thinking.
In addition to "At Home With The Henry Girls", there’s a cluster of Inishowen-based events taking place from Thursday, July 6th, to Sunday, July 9th, grouped together under the banner Wild Atlantic Weekend, so it looks like on that first weekend Malin is the place to be.
In recent years content has skewed more towards music and this is true of this year's festival, with twice the number of music events listed (32) as there is theatre (16).
Included under the music banner are The Letterkenny International Folk & Roots Weekend (Wednesday, July 12th, to Sunday, July 16th) and The Swell Festival on Arranmore Island, for which Earagail takes control of programming for The Mountain Stage on Saturday, 22nd and Sunday, 23rd.
The Folk & Roots Weekend includes gigs at The Regional Cultural Centre by Saint Sister and Rosie Carney (Thursday, July 13th), Kila (Friday, 14th), Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko (Sat, 15th) and Na Mooneys (Sunday, 16th). There’s also a concert featuring the Atlantic Arc Orchestra and Young Donegal Maestros at An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny on Sunday, 16th as well as a busking festival and a free music trail.
The Folk & Roots Weekend isn’t strictly confined to Letterkenny - there’s "Music At The Castle" at Glenveagh National Park on Thursday, 13th and For Foresters and Leila Jane & The Healers keep good the festival's Made In Donegal tagline, with a gig at The Balor, Ballybofey on Saturday, 15th.
Earagail's Mountain Stage at The Swell Festival will feature dozens of acts over two days, headlined by The Altered Hours on the Saturday and the seven-piece ragtime, Dixieland combo, The California Feetwarmers, headline on the Sunday.
The Feetwarmers also play two mainland gigs as part of the festival – in Rathmullan House on Friday, 21st, and in Teach Hiudai Beag in Gweedore on Saturday, 22nd. Oddly enough it’s a tenner in to the Rathmullan gig while it’s free in up in Hiudai’s – which seems to be a strange pricing discrepancy.
Other stand-out music gigs in the Earagail Festival programme include Femi Kuti & the Positive Force at McGrory’s in Culdaff on Sunday, July 9th; The Selecter at the Regional Cultural Centre, Lettekenny on Thursday, July 20th; and Dirty Cello at The Balor, Ballybofey also on Thursday, July 20th.
Highlight of the theatre programme is undoubtedly Pat Kinevane’s award winning "Silent", which is on in An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny on Monday, July 10th and in Dunfanaghy on Tuesday, 11th. Also tickling my fancy is "Blackadder Goes Forth", which runs from Thursday, July 6th, to Saturday, July 8th, at An Grianán Theatre. This is quite an ambitious undertaking by students graduating from An Grianán Youth Theatre – it’s actually a stage amalgamation and adaptation of three of the Blackadder TV scripts into one stage production (adapted by the students themselves), and I for one am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
The comedy programme is evenly split with two acts each at The Balor, Ballybofey - The Nualas on Saturday, July 8th, and Paddy Cullivan’s "10 Dark Secrets of The Irish Revolution" on Wednesday, July 19th – and An Grianán, Letterkenny which hosts "Every Little Thing" on Friday, 21st, and Frank Carson on Saturday, 22nd.
Family shows have always been an important component of the festival and there are shows for children in Letterkenny, Dunfanaghy, Malin, Dore, Gweedore and Rathmullan.
Overall it’s a solid 2017 lineup – every event has something to recommend it, nothing looks like it’s there as a filler. I’d put "Silent" in An Grianán and Dunfanaghy, and The Selector in The Regional Cultural Centre as the stand-out theatre and music gigs respectively, and they’re the ones for which the old cliché "Advanced booking is strongly advised" definitely applies.
I’m really impressed with this year's new festival website - very user friendly and easily navigable. Check it out, with a full listing of all this years events at www.eaf.ie.