There is nothing quite like that spring feeling when you realise there is a ‘grand stretch’ in the evenings and the weather isn’t so bitter anymore, perfect for planning activities.

For those looking to enjoy some local festivals, there is a host of music and arts events happening around the country. Our selection of events taking place over the next few weeks will keep your diaries busy and your feet tapping.

Longford lights Festival, 23-25 February

This festival celebrates the illuminated art form in general, specialising in community-based lantern art. Taking place from 6pm-9pm over three evenings in Connolly Barracks, Longford, it involves over 400 members of local communities as well as offering employment opportunities to many artists.

The festival started in 2022 as part of the Arts Council and Longford County Council’s Faoin Spéir Programme and was developed by artist Tom Meskell and producer Shane Crossan. In 2023, it took over the barracks site and was attended by approximately 12,000 people with lanterns, workshops, projections and music, combining to create a celebration of all things light-filled.

This year, the festival has expanded in scale, ambition and art forms. There will be 26 art exhibitions with 24 artists participating, including two international artists, 11 national and a further 11 local artists. The installations have been brought together by 43 participating community groups to make Longford Lights the largest community-based arts lights festival in Ireland.


Belfast TradFest, 23-25 February

The third annual ‘winter weekend’ of the Belfast TradFest is taking place this weekend across the city – Belfast UNESCO City of Music – in a number of locations and venues. The programme consists of internationally renowned talent in traditional Irish and Scottish music, song and dance. It takes the form of concerts and music events, workshops, the Dunville Irish Whiskey Session Trail, and the Solo Highland Piping Competition.

Acts include The Bothy Band, Altan, Michael Rooney, Bríd Harper Celebration Concert, and The Songs of Shane MacGowan concert.

Belfast TradFest aims to acknowledge and celebrate the cultural diversity of the different traditions in Northern Ireland as it brings people together in this shared celebration of traditional music. Some events are free and others ticketed.


Russell Festival Doolin, 22-26 February

There is nothing quite like a trip to the seaside town of Doolin in Co Clare to immerse yourself in local music and sessions. The Russell Festival takes place annually and this weekend, it celebrates its 30th year. It is a fusion of music, song, dance and storytelling, and also a remembrance event for the Russell family, world-famous traditional musicians from the area.

The festival features a variety of events for all ages including concerts, recitals, CD launches, lectures, workshops, kids’ sessions, pub sessions and a tribute to the Russell Brothers at Doolin Graveyard, following Sunday mass.

The weekend festival is one of the earliest of the year, with a hint of nostalgia as visitors and locals alike revisit the heyday of Doolin in the 1960s/70s in music sessions in the pubs and hotels. All events feature a host of local talent and concerts include invited guests of national and international acclaim in the traditional Irish music world.


Amsterdam-based Irish pianist, Séan Morgan Rooney, is making his Ortús debut this weekend

Ortús Chamber Music Festival, Cork, 25 February–3 March

Established in 2016, the Ortús Chamber Music Festival brings together top Irish and international musicians to perform around Cork city and county. The festival also includes educational and outreach projects in schools and public spaces across the community.

Co-founded by Irish violinist Mairéad Hickey and Sinéad O’Halloran, Ortús seeks to highlight the musical ability and innovation of young Irish musicians and composers while bridging connections with musicians around the world.

There’s a packed line-up for the 2024 festival that will feature award-winning violinists, fiddlers and more. Names including Alex Petcu, an Irish musician of Romanian origin; Kelley Petcu, Irish soprano; Paris-born pianist, Jérémie Moreau; and Dutch cellist, Ellan van Poucke, among many other amazing musicians.


Altan play at The Gathering, Killarney

The Gathering, Killarney, 28 February–3 March

The Gathering sets out to do exactly that. It is a coming together of the best and boldest trad musicians, singers, and, dancers for one weekend of toe-tapping, roof-raising celebrations and festivities. World-renowned Irish super-trad group Altan are one of the joint headliners of the Saturday night concert.

This year’s festival programme is loaded with concerts, céilís, sessions, and workshops along with the addition of a late-night festival club.


Fingal International Festival of Voices Dublin, 7-10 March

This week-long festival features ensembles, performers, and singers from across the globe, taking place in Balbriggan, Co Dublin. There’ll be musical events, competitions, food stalls, arts and crafts markets, live performances and plenty more.

Set to start in 2020, the festival was due to have over 2,500 singers in attendance, 55 performing ensembles and choirs as well as Ireland’s premier folk bands, traditional Irish singers, a cappella groups and spoken word performances. The festival was also going to be live streamed around the world. Unfortunately, that didn’t occur due to the pandemic, so this year is the inaugural festival.

It is set to be all that and even more exciting, with additional elements such as food marquees, local arts and crafts markets, a busking competition and live events from Thursday to Sunday. The Fingal International Festival of Voices is hoping to welcome an audience from near and far for the event.


Aileen Cahill and Andreea Banciu of Duo Anima will be at Finding A Voice in March

Finding a Voice, Clonmel, 7–10 March

‘Unforgettable music by remarkable women’ – that is the theme for this festival taking place in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. It is a festival of music by women composers through the ages and around the world, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Founded in 2017 by sisters Róisín Maher (artistic director and lecturer at MTU Cork School of Music) and Clíona Maher (artistic director of Clonmel Junction Arts Festival), the concert series has featured music by hundreds of women composers over the past six years, from the 12th century Hildegard of Bingen to newly commissioned works.

This year’s concert includes music and performances from Duo Anima – Aileen Cahill (piano) and Andreea Banciu (viola); Evlana: music and magic; and ‘From the stage to the page: women in popular music’ by Dr Laura Watson.


Belfast Children's Festival, 8-16 March 2024

Belfast Children’s Festival, 8-16 March

Young at Art are bringing the 26th edition of the international Belfast Children’s Festival to the city – a festival full of fun and activities for families. This year’s programme sees a distinct circus theme running through it.

There is a host of shows, events, activities and creative experiences for all the family, including inclusive performances specially created for those with additional needs. Whether you are three months, three years, 30 years or 93 years old, this festival has performances, for the young and the young at heart.


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