Once a year over a late winter week in Dublin, traditional Irish music can be heard seeping through granite church walls and rising from limestone catacombs at some of Dublin’s most unusual music venues.
This is TradFest (23 – 27 Jan), a festival of mostly free events showcasing the entire spectrum of traditional and folk music in iconic locations around Dublin.
Here are five reasons why TradFest might just be the best traditional music festival on the planet – and, of course, five reasons why you should come!
1 THE LOCATION
A unique celebration deserves a unique setting – and TradFest has one. Enter Temple Bar: once a Viking stronghold, the area still has its original medieval street plan, so you’re literally walking through history.
Dublin’s cultural quarter and creative hub also happens to be scattered with traditional pubs, art galleries and restaurants like Toscana and Klaw. You’ll find yourself wandering through narrow cobbled lanes, dipping into intimate pub sessions, special screenings or any of the other 200 free events that catch your eye.
2 THE VENUES
You’ve got to love a festival that chooses venues like St Patrick’s Cathedral. Don’t know it? It’s Ireland’s largest church and where writer Jonathan Swift was once Dean. At TradFest, musicians perform under the cathedral’s arched nave shaped like a cross.
St Michan’s Church will send shivers down spines: it contains mummified remains, including an alleged crusader housed in underground vaults that were said to have inspired Bram Stoker. The church has a musical past, too, as Handel is said to have composed his Messiah here.
Other stellar spots include Dublin City Hall, which swings open its Georgian doors for the occasion, as does St Werburgh’s Church, founded in 1178 and seldom open to the public.
3 THE MUSICIANS
The Dubliners, Clannad, Sharon Shannon: basically some of the biggest names in traditional Irish music have performed at TradFest since its inception in 2006.
Trad superstars Téada will perform at the Tradfest Gala Night. Chris Newman and Máire Ní Chathasaigh will bring their stunning show to the City Hall venue. This is How We Fly will energise the spirits of their listeners with their fresh sounds. And the Big Country, having recently completed their 30-year anniversary tour, will set toes tapping in St. Patrick's Cathedral. That's just a sample of the performers.
4 THE ATMOSPHERE
Ireland’s traditional music as we know it has been around since the 18th century. Its distinct instruments such as the uilleann pipes and dances such as Riverdance are recognised around the world. And at TradFest, this rich heritage comes alive.
The relaxed nature of TradFest means visitors can be found mingling among musicians and trad-loving locals in our cosiest pubs, which also host sessions (open musical gatherings) year round. As you ramble through Temple Bar guided by your ears, grab a Guinness, have a sing-along with some Dubliners and soak up the good vibrations.
5 THE FREEBIES
TradFest is open to literally everyone… and some of the best bits are free! Music might take centre stage at TradFest, but the face-painters, pipe bands, mobile farms, outdoor stages and craft market are all for free! And probably what makes this cultural extravaganza and two-time winner of the Best Traditional Festival award all the sweeter...