Welcome to the 45th edition of Kilkenny Arts Festival - a year of several firsts for us.  

We’re collaborating with Rough Magic on a brand new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, specially created for our iconic open-air theatrical venue, Castle Yard. Don’t miss a fabulously funny and magical night of Shakespeare under the stars with a brilliant young cast.

We’re also presenting for the first time a staged full-scale opera: the first ever production in Ireland of The Return of Ulysses, Monteverdi’s magnificent retelling of Homer’s Odyssey.  We’re delighted to be collaborating with Opera Collective Ireland and the renowned Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, with a world-class creative team led by director Patrick Mason and our regular operatic partner, conductor Christian Curnyn.

This August we also present world premiere productions of two Festival commissions: Inventions, a new work from Irish Modern Dance Theatre in the former Carlton Ballroom starring the extraordinary Valda Setterfield and Oona Doherty, and The Lightkeepers’ Last Stand, a free aerial circus show for all ages by the stunningly talented Loosysmokes, playing in Kilkenny Castle Park twice daily.

Our music programme offers a more diverse range of concerts than ever, from morning till late at night. Dive into a ten-day journey through the chamber music masterpieces of Johannes Brahms; a three-concert series by our resident ensemble, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, contrasting Beethoven’s astonishing later works with thrilling 21stcentury compositions; mesmeric collaborations in the Marble City Sessions hosted by our artistic partner Martin Hayes; a mouthwatering sequence of singer-songwriters at the Set, and international stars of jazz and folk in partnership with the Sofa Sessions and Rollercoaster Records.

Our spoken word events include a number of themed series focussing on politics, history and culture, from Ireland’s prospects in a turbulent world to two Irish titans of the 19th century.  The great Eavan Boland is our poet in residence, and don’t miss the premiere of our latest project with regular artistic partner Stephen Rea, as he performs Derek Mahon’s epic poetic sequence New York Time in a newly commissioned musical setting.

And while you’re out and about during the day, our exhibitions of art and design include unmissable new shows at the Butler Gallery and the National Design & Craft Gallery, as well as bold new visions for Kilkenny’s cultural future at Rothe House.

Dive in and discover something for everyone - young and old, day and night, indoors and out - in some of the most magical spaces in Ireland. We’re all looking forward to welcoming you in August!

Eugene Downes

Festival Director