About the Festival

‘From Shakespeare without a set under the sky to secret performances in civic spaces and everything in between, the festival thrills’ The Irish Times
‘One of the jewels in the arts calendar’s crown’ Irish Daily Mail

Kilkenny Arts Festival is one of the leading festivals in Ireland, celebrated for its effortless blend of tradition and innovation, and for its electrifying range of events, staged in some of the country’s loveliest venues.

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.

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, with concerts 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.

In recent years the Festival has enriched its music programme with major new initiatives like The Marble City Sessions, a cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations featuring a range of artists, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish traditional musician 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 a range of concerts combining 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 Eavan Boland to Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.

Kilkenny is spoiled with some of Ireland’s most magnificent historic spaces, such as St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey– sites of countless breathtaking concerts – and the Castle Yard, home to dazzling theatrical productions by the likes of Rough Magic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Druid Theatre. From St John’s Priory to the Set Theatre, few festivals can boast such a wealth of venues, and the  Kilkenny Arts Festival is constantly devising unique events for the city’s hidden gems.

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.

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

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.

Brian is a retired Bank of Ireland  official. He was treasurer and board member of Kilkenny Arts Festival from 1991 to 95. He also helped organise the classical music programme during that time.  For a few years he ran a weekly classical music slot on K C L R. Since then he has been involved with Music in Kilkenny and various local organisations.  

Brian re-joined the board in 2016

Originally from South Africa, Lorelei has lived in Ireland since 1979. She is currently Editor of Arts, Factual and Drama for RTÉ Radio 1. Previously Lorelei has worked as Commissioning Editor of Documentaries for RTÉ Radio 1 and during the course of her career in RTÉ has established a number of important programme strands such as the internationally acclaimed Documentary on One, the award-winning Drama on One as well as the annual Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture. Lorelei was also responsible for the setting up of RTÉ’s Independent Radio Productions (IRP), tasked with managing RTÉ’s relationship with the independent radio sector, and she has worked closely with European Broadcasting Union (EBU) colleagues, serving as Chairperson with responsibility for the organisation of the annual International Features Conference, in a consultative capacity to the EBU Radio Cultural Group, and as a member of the Steering Committee of the Prix Europa. Recently, Lorelei has been responsible for projects as diverse as RTÉ Radio 1’s World War 1 on RTÉ content and RTÉ’s Culture Night activities.

Lorelei joined the board in 2016

Christine Monk is am Australian-born, Dublin-based cultural publicist, who has been working closely as an independent consultant with cultural organisations, festivals and venues in Ireland for over 20 years. Her recent client list includes The Gate Theatre, National Concert Hall, RTE Arts, The Arts Council,  Macnas, National Youth Theatre,the Feis Ceoil and the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards. In Kilkenny her clients have included Cartoon Saloon, the Design and Crafts Council and the Butler Gallery. She is currently a board member with Poetry Ireland.

Festival Team

Festival Director Olga Barry
Festival Administrator Valerie Ryan
Marketing & Development Manager Nollaig Healy
Acting Box Office Manager Brian McCormack
Production Manager Aidan Wallace
Producer Aisling O'Brien