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. For ten days each August, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.
one of the jewels in the arts calendar crownIrish Daily Mail
From outdoor theatre to contemporary dance, the Festival is dedicated to staging events of the highest calibre, thrilling audiences of all kinds. Classical music has been at the core of the Festival from the very beginning, and recent concerts have featured an astonishing number of globally acclaimed artists including Sir András Schiff, Alina Ibragimova, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Nathalie Stutzmann, Alfred Brendel, Roderick Williams, Les Arts Florissants and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.
In recent years the Festival has enriched its programme with major new initiatives like The Marble City Sessions, a cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish fiddle-player and artist-in-residence Martin Hayes.
Indeed, artist residencies now lie at the heart of everything the Festival does, offering a combination of continuity and innovation that gives the Festival its unique spirit. The Festival’s orchestra-in-residence, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, collaborates with leading national and international performers on concerts that combine the traditional with the thrillingly modern, while in recent years the position of poet-in-residence has been graced by everyone from Paula Meehan and the late Eavan Boland to former US laureates Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.
A cultural melting pot that bubbles with energy and diversitySunday Business Post
Each year the Hubert Butler Lecture series, delivered by illustrious critics and thinkers including Lara Marlowe, John Gray, Masha Gessen and Samantha Power, brings the pressing issues of our time into focus before rapt audiences in the spectacular St Canice’s Cathedral, one of Ireland’s most magnificent churches, which also plays host to a series of unforgettable concerts each year. Indeed, Kilkenny boasts many of Ireland’s loveliest historic spaces, including Rothe House, the Black Abbey and the Castle Yard, which has hosted dazzling theatrical productions by the likes of Rough Magic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Druid Theatre. Few festivals can boast such a wealth of venues, and the Festival is constantly devising unique events tailored to the city’s extraordinary spaces, including its many beautiful gardens, hosts of the perennially popular Secret Garden Music series.
Under the direction of Olga Barry, the Festival has continued to innovate. In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Festival presented KAFX: a wide-ranging collection of exhibitions and events, some (like Blaise Smith’s live-streamed portrait project Village People) delivered online, and others performed live before a socially distanced audience, such as the world premiere of Solar Bones, Rough Magic’s stage adaptation of Mike McCormack’s novel. Garnering widespread acclaim for its imaginative response to the realities of the pandemic, KAFX amply demonstrated why the Festival continues to be ‘one of the jewels in the arts calendar crown’ (Irish Daily Mail).