Clonakilty Guitar Festival ‘run by music lovers for music lovers’

More than 5,000 singers, musicians and fans from Australia, USA, Ireland, and the UK flood into Clonakilty later this week for four days and nights of mostly free sessions of non-stop rock, jazz, trad, and lots more.

Local accommodation providers have been booked out for weeks in advance of the hugely popular event, which kicks off on Thursday.

Now in its 12th year, the Clonakilty Guitar Festival is steadily carving out an ever greater reputation for itself on the world stage.

“It’s basically four days and nights of all kinds of music, with performers from the USA, Australia, Sweden — this is a real can-do festival; it punches way above its weight because it’s run by music lovers for music lovers,” said Ray Blackwell of De Barra’s bar and music venue and one of the main drivers behind the festival.

Mr Blackwell said that the festival, which features a hugely eclectic mix of music and performers, had, in recent years, become so widely respected internationally that top musicians were eager to perform in the West Cork town.

“When we come knocking on their door nowadays, the bands tell us they’ve already heard of us and the response is always positive and enthusiastic,” he said, adding that despite the high calibre of performers, the festival was still very much a community festival, for everyone and with the vast majority of acts free to members of the public.

This year, large crowds are expected to see bands such as Wyvern Lingo, Redneck Manifesto, The Membranes, Soothsaysers, Crow Black Chicken, The Spook Guitar Orchestra, and All My Exes Live in Texas, as well as musicians such as top Irish guitarist Bill Shanley and Australian Steve Cooney.

“We’re a festival that would not be able to work except for a very wide sponsors including a host of local businesses along with the Arts Council, Cork County Council, and the Chamber of Commerce on top of which there is significant community involvement,” said Mr Blackwell.

Music-mad adults are well catered for, but so too are young families. The festival also offers the popular Music Generation Bus, a retro-fitted double decker bus which hosts workshops and performances for children and their families.

“Children get to attend songwriting workshops, record their own song sand play music,” said Mr Blackwell.

On top of that, the festival features a special early concert for very young children and their parents by singer Fiona Kelleher and guitarist Jim Murray.

“Many of these events are free as people will see when they visit the website; only about three of the shows are ticketed,” said Mr Blackwell.

“This festival is very much about music, for music and for those who love music.”

A wide range of workshops were on offer as well as special music workshops for children in the Clonakilty Community College and Scoil na mBuachaillí, which on Thursday hosts a unique concert featuring a number of past pupils who are now internationally successful musicians — Bill Shanley, John Fitzgerald and Anthony Noonan.

In an unusual twist, this concert is being organised and produced almost entirely by current pupils of the shool, who will be in charge of everything from production to sound and lighting.

For more information on the Clonakilty Guitar Festival visit


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