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Largest Céilí Band in the World

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All Traditional Musicians are invited to join the Ceílí Band at City Hall, Sign up via our website or email. We will have special accommodation deals for traveling musicians and concert tickets for local musicians who register to take part.

At 3pm on Sunday the 13th of October we aim to set the record for 'The World's Largest Irish Céilí Band' by having over 250 musicians playing for a Céilí Mór at Cork City Hall. For more info email:

Féach ar seo!

Songwriting Comp

Festival Gallery

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Cork Folk Festival Arts @ Civic Trust House

50 Popes Quay, Cork.

Phone 021 4215150

Festival History

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A little history....

For any event to be celebrating it’s 30th anniversary is cause for celebration. For The Cork Folk Festival, it’s much more than that. Put together from year to year purely on a voluntary basis by a dedicated group of enthusiasts, sometimes with the help of major sponsorship, often by a combination of various sponsors and supporters, it’s endurance is a tribute to the energy and labour of it’s workers.

The Cork Folk Festival’s annual objective is straightforward – to present the best of local, national, and international folk and traditional music, song and dance on Leeside in late august/early September each year.

Sometimes, that task can be a difficult one, particularly when Festival organisers find themselves grappling with a previous year’s funds deficit. For instance, the 1995 Folk Festival had to contend with overwhelming competition, particularly in terms of publicity, when a World Title Fight featuring Steve Collins was staged in Cork. The committee’s collective dedication and resourcefulness went into overdrive; with benefit concerts, gigs, and raffles all helping to clear the resultant shortfall.

Since the early 1990s, financial participation from the Arts Committee of Cork Corporation (now Cork City Council) has allowed Cork Folk Festival to mount a number of special concerts and events. In recent years, the involvement of Beamish Stout has provided the Festival with a further welcome degree of stability.

Before proceeding any further, it’s appropriate to acknowledge the voluntary organising committee, not forgetting the many volunteer workers who take charge of doors, organise artist accommodation, look after publicity, liaise with artists – in fact, do the 1001 things involved in making such an event possible year on year.

There are far too many names to mention here but the following are deserving of particular recognition. Jim Walsh (current Chairman and someone who has been a vital cog in Festival organisation since that very first year), long-serving Festival Director William “Hammy” Hammond, former Directors Anne Brennan and Mary O’Reilly - all have done trojan work and can take much of the kudos for keeping the show on the road for all these years.

Tony Grace has served as Production Manager since 1980, dealing calmly with stage and sound requirements. One should not forget Timmy “the Brit” McCarthy, the inspirational figure behind the Festival’s inception, as well as it’s original Director/Secretary. Timmy has been affectionately dubbed the Festival’s Spiritual Director.

Back in 1979, when The Cork Folk Festival was being conceived, the idea of surviving 25 years was not even a pipe dream. At a time when folk festivals such as Ballisodare and Ballyshannon offered inspiration, one of the main motivations on Leeside was to provide an urban platform for the indigenous music, song and dance of the Muskerry Gaeltacht, Sliabh Luachra and West Kerry; in tandem with attracting premier national and international exponents of folk and traditional music to the city.

That first year of concerts, céilís, workshops, Festival Club and sessions, offered a successful template for succeeding years. The opening night, Thursday September 13th 1979 at Douglas GAA Club; was headlined by Nioclás Tóibín and Diarmuid ó Súilleabháin, two fine traditional singers sadly no longer among us. The high standard of local traditional musicianship at the time is evident from the other participants: Conal agus Máire Ní Ghráda, and Máire agus Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh.

With venues such as Connolly Hall, UCC, The Country Club, The Phoenix Bar and Heaphy’s Bar (now The Lobby); you could have invested in a weekend ticket covering all 1979 events for jus £8. For that, you could have enjoyed De Dannan, Seán ó Sé, Na Filí, Jimmy Crowley & Stokers Lodge, The Lee Valley Stringband, Niall Toner, Tomás ó Canainn, Eoin ó Riabhaigh, Mandy Murphy, The Press Gang – and a host of other names. The fact that Martin Carthy was unable to attend at the last minute came as a big disappointment but even that could not disguise the fact that The Cork Folk Festival had arrived; and was here to stay. (When Martin Carthy eventually appeared on the Festival programme, it was to be all of 21 years later).

Mathematically-minded folks reading this will already have figured out that it is in fact 26 years since that first Festival, so what’s all this about a 25th anniversary? In fact, there was no Festival in 1988. This was due to the short notice of withdrawal of sponsorship, after which it was decided to conserve resources until the following year. However, an hilarious concert courtesy of the inimitable Christy Hennessy kept the show on the road, albeit in a smaller way.

Looking through Festival programmes dating back to the 1980s, certain stalwart visiting names recur; Cór Chúil Aodha, Jackie Daly, Niall Toner, Andy Irvine, Johnny Moynihan, Mick Hanly, Julia Clifford, Connie O’Connell, Denis McMahon, Denis Doody; and a host of singers and musicians from Muskerry.

From 2000 to 2003, the Cork Folk Festival has welcomed further established and emerging artist; including: Dick Gaughan, Mick Moloney, Norma Waterson, Martin &Eliza Carthy, Karan Casey, Sean Keane, Dervish, Danú, Maighread, Tríona, and Mícheál ó Domhnaill, Paddy Glackin, Séamus Tansey, Charlie Lennon, Susan McKeown, Tír na nóg, Slide, Niall Connolly, John Leo Carter, Liz & Yvonne Kane, Aoife Clancy, Alias Ron Kavana, The Press Gang, and Dana Lyons.

2001 brought another exciting innovation, a concert of Leeside’s very own rich and unique urban singing, songmaking and storytelling tradition. Since then, this has developed into different nights out, bringing the song and story culture of both Northside and Southside – each with it’s own distinctly wonderful characteristics – into pubs in the relevant areas of Cork.

In 2002, it was a particular pleasure to welcome home Iarla ó Lionáird, an old friend of the Festival right back to it’s earliest days. Iarla has now brought the wonderful song tradition of his native Muskerry to international attention, principally through his work with The Afro Celt Sound System.

The innovations from year to year already mentioned, as well as other conceptions, some enduring, some not, have kept The Cork Folk Festival fresh and invigorated. However, some structures are roughly similar from year to year, and Irish traditional dancing is certainly one such element.

Céilís and Set Dances are a core component, as are the dance workshops on Festival Saturday and Sunday, presented by some of the finest teachers in the country, including: Joe O’Donovan, the late Connie Ryan, Mick Mulkerins, Pat and Liz Moroney, Betty Ryan, Máiréad Casey; and of course, Timmy McCarthy and William Hammond. Cajun two-steps and clog dancing are among other dance forms to have snuck in, thanks to visiting teachers, musicians and enthusiasts. Legendary Céilí Bands, including The Tulla, Kilfenora and Templehouse have provided the music for Folk Festival dancers; as indeed have many of the bands specialising in the set dance music indigenous to Cork, Kerry and South Munster. The Abbey Céilí Band, Donie Nolan & Taylors Cross, The Four Star Trio, The Island Céilí Band, The Donncha Lynch Céilí Band and Sliabh Notes have all followed in the footsteps (or should that be steered the footsteps)since that inaugural 1979 Phoenix Céilí Band hooley. The already mentioned and much missed Johnny Leary, and other friends from Dan Connell’s bar and famous dance locale in Knocknagree, have been as much a part of these events as Cork dance enthusiasts. A hugely popular element of the Festival which has survived from 1979 is the Specialist Concert. These are concerts featuring leading exponents of a specific traditional instrument; such as Button Accordion, Fiddle, Pipes, Flute & Whistle, or String. Originally dubbed Workshops, it was eventually decided that this was something of a misnomer, given that there were no question and answer sessions, indeed no opportunity for aspiring musicians to play with the featured exponents. Since the mid 1990s, Master Classes have successfully bridged that gap. Renowned unaccompanied traditional singers and songmakers from all over the country make the annual pilgrimage to the Cork Folk Festival’s Traditional Song Concert. Like the Specialist Traditional Concerts, this is presented by a different singer each year and is invariably a Festival highpoints year after year.

Since Nioclás Tóibín and Diarmuid ó Súilleabháin sang on that very first Festival night in the Douglas GAA Club, literally hundreds of traditional singers have taken the Traditional Song Concert stage, from Clare’s late Junior Crehan and Micho Russell, to Chapelizod’s Frank Harte, from Altan’s Máiréad Ní Mhaonaigh to Danú’s Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. Many are familiar faces from North and South year after year: Niamh Parsons, Rosie Stewart, Róisín white, Sinéad Caher, Tim and John Lyons, Tim Dennehy, The Góilín Singers Club (Dublin), Mick Scannell, Mick Marrinan etc.

Each year, the concert is graced by a large contingent of singers from Cúil Aodha, led by Máire Ní Chéilleachair and Danny Maidhcí ó Súilleabháin. From the Traditional Song Concerts has emerged The Cork Singers Club, providing a platform for Cork’s own singers and songmakers every Sunday night upstairs at the Spailpín Fánach bar on South Main Street. The level of new vocal and creative talent unearthed there has been quite remarkable – but that’s another story.

Providing a platform for established and emerging local talent has always been an important function of The Cork Folk Festival. Names such as Nomos, Sinéad Lohan, NorthCregg, John Spillane, Two Time Polka and Ger Wolfe spring to mind. But as a former Festival committee member and Chairman, music writer and columnist, I remember in particular Jimmy MacCarthy’s many Festival concerts, as we proudly watched him blossom into a songwriter and performer of international stature.

So, as we look forward to Cork Folk Festival 2009, with it’s most impressive programme of many old friends and some new, we also remember Festival friends who have passed on since 1979. One of the pleasures of the Festival weekend is to renew old acquaintances and make new friendships. There is one thing of which I’m sure - and that is that when this year’s activities get under way, the spirit of Johnny Leary won’t be far away from wherever the music, dance and craic is under way.

Paul Dromey.

If you have any additional information or good stories on the festival we would like to hear from you.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 May 2010 17:35

2013 Cork Folk Festival Artist Videos


John Spillane


Nollaig Casey & Arty McGlynn

Pádraig Rynne, Dónal Lunny & Sylvain Barou

Jimmy Crowley & Stoker's Lodge

I Draw Slow




Season ticket €98 covering all events over the 4 days. Tickets will be on sale here:

Festival Partners

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Cork Festivals Forum

For information on other festivals in Cork city please see the following link:

Cork Festivals Forum

Open Air Market

Every year we have an food market on Grand Parade over the course of the weekend in conjunction with Goldifish Events.

For trade enquiries click here