About the Festival

Since its foundation in 1974, Kilkenny Arts Festival has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city each August.  For ten days, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.  

From the beginning, classical music has been at the core of the programme, featuring globally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de los Angeles, Alfred Brendel, Jordi Savall, Steven Isserlis, Dawn Upshaw, Nigel Kennedy and Joshua Bell among many others.  Last year, the Festival presented its most ambitious musical project to date: Beethoven's complete string quartets and piano concertos in 12 concerts across ten days. The Festival has also frequently showcased Kilkenny's exceptional local tradition of baroque performance, not least through the performances of Camerata Kilkenny (which was founded at the Festival in 1999) and its co-founders, violinist Maya Homburger and organist/harpsichordist Malcolm Proud.  True to our vision of championing excellence without regard for musical genres, 2014 also saw the Irish debuts of the Basiani Ensemble (Georgia), the Early Opera Company (UK), Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (Italy) and La Chiva Gantiva (Colombia).   

Over the decades the Festival has staged major open-air productions of Shakespeare, and has recently built on this tradition, hosting from 2012-14 annual residencies by Shakespeare’s Globe in the historic Castle Yard, Ireland’s finest open-air theatrical space.  Other theatre artists presenting work at the Festival in recent years have included the legendary Peter Brook and a residency by the Free Theatre of Belarus.   

Poetry has also featured prominently since the early years in the 1970s, when Seamus Heaney acted as literary curator and brought some of the world’s finest poets to Kilkenny, including Robert Lowell and Sorley Maclean.  Last year, former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins was the Festival’s poet-in-residence, while extraordinary performance poet Kate Tempest gave the Irish premiere of her new album. 

Under the artistic direction of Eugene Downes from its 2014 edition onwards, the Festival has further enriched its music programme with major series focussing on a single composer, and also through The Marble City Sessions, a new cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations featuring a range of artists-in-residence, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish traditional musician Martin Hayes.   In residence last year were  - among others - extraordinary new Irish-music group The Gloaming, jazz master Bill Frisell and cult folk singer Sam Amidon.

The Festival is governed by a Voluntary Board of Directors.

Board of Directors

Emer Foley is a solicitor and a partner in Reidy & Foley Solicitors, Kilkenny. The firm has been in practice for almost thirty years.
Emer has also been involved with the following arts organisations in Ireland: Butler Gallery and Barnstorm Theatre Company.

Emer joined the Board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2007.

Fergus is a Business Consultant, writer, and is a Director of Spool Communications Ltd, a Director( Chairman) of KCLR, a Director( Chairman) of Kilkenny Industrial Development Co. and Director( Chairman) of Lisa Richards Ltd. He previously was Managing Director of Bowen/Veolia Water one of Kilkennys biggest employers and Chairman and co-founder of Kilkenny School Project. He has a B.E (Chemical Engineering) from UCD and a M.Phil ( Creative Writing) TCD.

Fergus joined the board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 1999.

After studying architchture in Dublin, Orla chose to specialise in Interior design. Her design work in Paris, London and Barcelona  finally led her to Milan, where she specialised as a Trome L’oeil artist .

She painted decorative panels in Bethesda terrace in Central park, New York and printed Persian rugs on marble floors in Florida. On her return to Ireland she became the chief Interior designer for the Irish Landmark Trust and designed and furnished 20 of their historic properties from lighthouses to castles. Her client list includes, Brown Thomas, Waterford Stanley, Colortrend, The OPW, 360 design, Lamber de Bie flowers, Arnotts, Ceadogan rugs, Peter Mark and many private clients. Her exhibition design work with Nualight includes an international exhibition space for their lighting products at the Euroshop fair in Dusseldorf and subsequent showrooms for their Division in Holland. Orla has presented on RTE television and radio and written for numerous publications and recently published  the title “ Cork in the 1060’s”. She has been board member and Chair of Barnstorm theatre Company and a member of An taisce National properties committee.

Orla joined the Board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2007.

Maureen has worked with a wide number of arts organisations in recent year and is currently director of Poetry Ireland. She was Primary Curator with the Mountains to Sea DLR Book Festival for 2012 and 2013, Programme Director of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, Galway for 2009 and 2010 and curator of the All Ireland Performing Arts Conferences held in Belfast. She was previously director of Kilkenny Arts Festival, artistic director of the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, and she has also worked with Fishamble New Writing Theatre Company, Druid Theatre Company, The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Irish Youth Choir. In March 2011, she was creative producer of DublinSwell, staged at the Convention Centre, Dublin as the first major celebration of the UNESCO City of Literature designation. She is a member of the boards of Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Barabbas Theatre Company and The Dock Arts Centre, Carrick-on-Shannon. She was appointed to the Expert Advisory Committee of Culture Ireland in 2013.

Maureen joined the Board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2005.

Conor is an Irish artist who has received awards from ‘American Illustrator’ and ‘Communication Arts. Clients include The New Yorker & Rolling Stone magazine.

Conor is also a member of the Langton family who run 4 star Langton House Hotel, which was established in 1938. The hotel includes Langton Room restaurant, The 67 bar, Tea & Wine Rooms. Langton House Hotel is renowned for its impeccable service, genuine hospitality and has won numerous awards over the years, namely the Black & White Pub of the Year four times in a row, the Black & White Super Pub of the Year along with ample food and service awards.
The Langton family in 2009 constructed "Set Theatre" a state of the art venue which can hold 252 people seated and 380 standing/seated. A multipurpose room which can cater for music acts, comedy, film and conferencing amongst others.
The visually stunning interiors along with tasteful furnishings speak volumes about how greatly expanded the Langton brand has become over the years. Designed by the David Collins Studio in London this is their flagship theatre and have pulled out all the stops to make it the most beautiful and talked about venue in the country.

Conor joined the board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2007

Anna O’Sullivan is the Director and Chief Curator of the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny, Ireland where she also manages the Butler Gallery Permanent Collection. Prior to joining the Butler Gallery in 2005, O’Sullivan spent over twenty years in New York, first as curator of Performance Art at the avant-garde arts venue Franklin Furnace and then as Director of the Robert Miller Gallery where she curated several successful exhibitions. O’Sullivan has worked with many internationally-renowned artists and artists’ estates to realize projects and exhibitions including Alice Neel, Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner and Patti Smith at the Robert Miller Gallery and Marilyn Lerner, Bob and Roberta Smith, Hans Op de Beeck, Ian Burns, Louise Bourgeois, Werner Herzog, Tony O’Malley, Barry McGee, Jeanne Silverthorne, and Eve Sussman at the Butler Gallery. O’Sullivan has written numerous catalogue essays and published catalogues on Irish artists including Tony O’Malley, Barrie Cooke, Michael Beirne, Gypsy Ray and Stephen McKenna. In 2013, she was the Commissioner and Curator of the Irish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale with Richard Mosse as the artist representing Ireland. She has been a visiting lecturer at various third level institutions and served on many artist review panels including the Arts Council and Culture Ireland. O’Sullivan graduated from the National College of Art & Design Dublin and also studied at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, New York and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Whilst in New York, she was a member of ArtTable Inc. and served on benefit committees for non-profit art spaces such as Art in General and the New Museum of Contemporary Art (1995-2005).

Anna has been on the board of the Kilkenny Arts Festival since 2005.

Michael O'Toole is one of the leading guitarists in Ireland and has toured extensively throughout Europe and America. He has collaborated with composers such as Philip Glass and Ian Wilson and has played with the Dublin Guitar Quartet, The Carducci Quartet, and many others, including a duet with pipa virtuoso Liu Fang which led to the release of a successful cd in 2008. Michael was artistic director of the Waltons guitar Festival of Ireland (2004-2007) and the Chord Guitar Festival in Ennis (2008).

Michael joined the board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2006.

Tom O’Toole (B. Comm., MBS, PhD, FMII, FIAM)

Tom O’Toole is Head of the School of Business at Waterford Institute of Technology.  As dean, he has executive responsibility for the strategy and operations of the School.  Currently, he is also vice president for international relations at the Institute.  Tom is a widely published author in the area of business relationships and networks with over 70 peer reviewed publications with a focus on collaborative innovation, entrepreneurial firms’ capability building, and relationship strength.  Tom is heavily involved in regional development.  He has been recognised for his contribution to marketing practice in Ireland by being awarded a fellow of the Marketing Institute of Ireland (2005), and for his contribution to management education in Ireland, in 2012, by being made a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Management.  Tom was a Fulbright Scholar in 2013. 

Tom is a member of the Kilkenny Arts Festival Board since 2007 and is its secretary.

Isabell Smyth has worked in communications since joining Parliamentarians for Global Action in New York in 1996 where she held an editing and research post.  In 2003, following a stint with Bord Gais, the Dublin Film Festival and An Taisce, she joined the staff of the Heritage Council in Kilkenny taking on the education and the communications brief. During this time she has overseen the development of National Heritage Week, the Heritage in Schools Programme, wide ranging research on Ireland’s heritage as well as a number of publications including Heritage Outlook, opinion pieces and PR initiatives.  She has a BA in Political Science from City University of New York and an MA in International Relations from Dublin City University. 

Isabell joined the board in 2007.

Renowned composer, producer and arranger Bill Whelan has worked extensively in theatre, film and television. His grammy winning album of music for Riverdance The Show is certified Platinum in the US, Ireland and Australia. His orchestral work, The Seville Suite was specially commissioned for Expo ’92. The Spirit Of Mayo, was first performed in 1993 by and 85-piece orchestra in Dublin’s National Concert Hall. As a producer he has worked with U2, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Richard Harris, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing, Davy Spillane and Bulgarian/Irish band, East Wind. His recently completed trilogy of pieces for chamber orchestra: Inishlacken, Carna and Errisbeg are included on his latest CD, "The Connemara Suite".

Joined board of Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2015.

Festival Team

Festival Director Eugene Downes
Festival Producer Olga Barry
Festival Administrator Valerie Ryan
Production Manager Aidan Wallace
Marketing Manager Nollaig Healy
Box Office Manager Cathy Hogan
Development Manager Siobhan Donohoe
Marketing Consultant Annette Nugent
Media Gerry Lundberg PR
Programme Editor Alistair Daniel
Artist Liaison Cornelia McCarthy
Assistant Artist Liaison Hazel Doyle
Marketing Intern Sabine O'Dwyer