The ultimate guide to TradFest 2024

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Fionn DavenportFionn Davenport is one of Ireland’s best-known travel writers. He has written multiple guides for Lonely Planet, including working on every edition of the Ireland and Dublin guides since the mid-1990s.
Media captionExplore all the performances on at TradFest 2024.
Three trad musicians performing at the 2022 Tradfest in Temple Bar in Dublin city
Media captionExplore all the performances on at TradFest 2024.

Every January TradFest fills the Dublin air with the uplifting sounds of bodhráns and banjos, fiddles and flutes. This year, the landmark traditional music festival runs from January 24-28, with a host of performance spaces throughout the city welcoming established and emerging musical talent from Ireland and beyond.

In 2024, TradFest spreads its wings to 16 venues across the city. St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle and the Pepper Canister Church are just some of the historic settings, but you can also catch gigs in theatres and performance spaces further afield, in Blanchardstown and in the villages of North County Dublin. Put them altogether and you’ve got an irresistible programme that celebrates Irish identity through music and performance.

TradFest is the best place to experience live Irish music in January, so select a session or two and prepare to enjoy some of the finest toe-tapping and hand-clapping trad music around.

National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks

This magnificent 18th-century barracks, now the home of the National Museum – Decorative Arts & History, is an impressive setting for the lunchtime performances every day of TradFest 2024

Opening events is multi-award winning melodeon player Emma Corbett, who takes the stage at 1pm on January 24. Manchester-born, Galway-based Angelina Carberry brings her brilliance on the banjo to bear on January 25, reminding audiences why in 2021 she received the prestigious TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Ceoiltor na Bliana / Musician of the Year award. 

On January 26 it's the turn of uillean piper Tara Howley to shine: this prolific multi-award-winning artist from Kilfenora, Co Clare has had a glittering career, including leading Riverdance for seven years. Her recent single, ‘Outlawed Tunes on Outlawed,’ made her the only female uilleann piper to break the top ten on the iTunes Charts. Multi-instrumentalist Oisín Morrison performs on Saturday, January 27. 

Media captionVisit Collins Barracks for exceptional trad performances.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral kicks off TradFest 2024 on January 24 from 7pm with Aoife Scott and the third edition of Women of Note, a musical celebration of female artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The next night promises to be just as special, as multi-award-winning folk singer Julie Fowlis fills the cathedral with her superlative singing, performing music rooted in her Scottish heritage. 

Poet, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, and co-founder of Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago Alison Russell takes to the cathedral stage on January 26, part of her world tour for her newest release, The Returner. 

On January 27 the cathedral will resonate to the sound of the gaita, the Galician bagpipes, expertly played by one of Spain's best-known folk musicians, Carlos Nuñez, whose passion for the music of his native Galicia was fuelled by an encounter with the Chieftain's Paddy Moloney.   

Media captionEnjoy Aoife Scott and Women of Note.

Castle Hall, Dublin Castle

There's few better to kick off Dublin Castle's participation in TradFest 2024 than musical heavyweight Paddy Keenan, who takes to the stage with his uilleann pipes and a few special guests at 7pm on January 24. On January 25 it's the turn of Dublin-born singer-songwriter Steo Wall, who'll be joined by fiddler Niamh Dunne and singer Sharyn Ward. 

Award-winning instrumentalist and composer Alannah Thornburgh will perform ancient airs and tunes from the Irish harping, American Appalachian, and jazz traditions on January 26, while indie folk artist David Howley of We Banjo 3 plays on Saturday night, January 27. Four exciting acts in a beautiful and dramatic location.

Pepper Canister Church

The iconic Georgian St Stephen’s Church on Mount Street Crescent, whose unique ‘pepper canister’ spire gives the nickname by which it is more commonly known, is an atmospheric venue for an impressive line-up of intimate TradFest gigs. Pádraig Rynne, Tara Breen and Jim Murray align their considerable musical talents on January 24 from 7.30pm, while another trio, led by Maurice Lennon, take to the stage the next  night. 

On Friday night it's the turn of Altan, who've been entertaining audiences for over four decades. The festival goes up a gear on Saturday, January 27, with three acts: Niamh Farrell and Varo kick off the day at lunchtime, followed by West Kerry collective Cuas performing with Padraig Jack at 4pm and then the Máirtín O’Connor Trio at 7.30pm.

Irish singer-songwriter Brigid Mae Power performs at lunchtime on Sunday, with Dingle-based duo Lumiere filling the space with their beautiful melodies from 7.30pm.

Media captionCatch a performance in the Pepper Canister Church.

National Stadium

On January 25 virtuoso guitarist, storyteller and folk legend Ralph McTell will be joined on stage by Camille O'Sullivan, Lúnasa and Declan O'Rourke to play some of the songs that made him famous - and tease out some of the new material that will populate his next album, which will be released to mark his 80th birthday. 

Next evening, pack your dancing shoes for Féile Kíla, where trad fusion group Kíla will serve up their blend of high energy music (and global instrument collection). The next night, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan presents Transatlantic Women with Alison Brown, Aoife O’Donovan, Eileen Ivers, the Friel Sisters, Edwina Guckian and Airc Damhsa. 

TradFest 2024 goes out on a high on Sunday, January 28, with Janis Ian - A Life Between the Lines, an evening honouring the life and works of the legendary singer-songwriter. The event will feature Ian discussing her life and career as well as performances of her work by Mary Black, Wallis Bird, Aoife Scott, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan), Nuala Kennedy, Eric & Ulrika Bibb and rising stars Toshín and Séamus & Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta. That’s four exciting nights on the South Circular Road venue.

Media captionTake in a night of Women in Trad and Folk.

Button Factory

The Button Factory is kicking off TradFest 2024 with the WeAreGriot collective, made up of Nigerian-Irish poets Dagogo Hart, FELISPEAKS and Samuel Yakura. They'll present Shtory, "a place where the power of words, visuals, and music intertwines to create an enchanting experience. As you gather around the crackling fire, let your imagination run wild as we embark on a journey into the realm of legends." 

The following night, TradFest celebrates LGBTQ+ trad and folk artists and allies with Pride Géilí. The night is hosted by Trad is Amach, the LGBTQ+ trad collective, and Dublin Pride. Come again on January 26 for Strange Boy, the Limerick rapper who has fused hip hop with traditional music, and whose debut album, HOLY / UNHOLY, features Grammy winner Moya Brennan.  

The Grand Social

With a pinch of Americana and a dash of Inis Oírr, Irish folk band The Raines promise to get your feet stomping at The Grand Social in Dublin 1 on January 25. Two nights later it’s the turn of The Deadlians, whose January 27 show will bring their mix of psychedelic rock, folk and punk to create a lively atmosphere.

Swords Castle, The Chapel

Irish-Indian duo Anna Tanvir (singer and harpist) and Maninder Singh (singer and guitarist), better known as Indeceltic, kick off proceedings in the intimate Chapel at Swords Castle in North Dublin at lunchtime on January 26, performing their blend of traditional melodies and compositions. They're followed at 5pm by the legendary frontman of the Hothouse Flowers, Liam Ó Maonlaí, in a one-off show.

The next day, it's the turn of Nuala Kennedy, who will be performing her interpretation of traditional melodies along with virtuoso Tara Breen and guitarist Tony Byrne. They're followed at 5pm by folk duo Zoë Conway and John Mc Intyre.

Líadan founder member Síle Denvir and 2023 "Amhránaí na Bliana” (singer of the year) winner at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards is one of the best-known sean-nós singers and harpists in the country, and she'll be performing songs from her latest album, “Anamnesis,” at lunchtime on January 28. At 5pm Cathy Jordan and Feargal Murray will showcase songs from their new release, STORYBOOK, made up of 10 songs about love, loss and hope by Brendan Graham.

Media captionEnjoy an afternoon of trad music in Swords Castle.

The Project Room, Malahide Castle

The Project Room at Malahide Castle in North Dublin plays host to a number of special TradFest events over the course of the festival. At lunchtime on Friday, January 26, virtuoso guitarist Niwel Tsumbu showcases his exciting blend of genres, including jazz, classical, rock, folk and rumba. He's followed at 5pm by harpist Michelle Mulcahy, who will remind audiences why she is considered one of the most important contemporary musicians in the traditional genre. 

At lunchtime the next day it's the turn of Sive (aka Sadhbh O’Sullivan), whose distinctive alt-folk style has won her plenty of plaudits over the last few years. If you're a fan of the harp, Laoise Kelly puts the instrument through its paces from 5pm, proving that it's anything but an old-fashioned instrument. 

On Sunday, January 28, singer Farah Elle melds her Libyan and Irish heritage into a thoroughly contemporary and unique sound from 1pm, followed at 5pm by singer and songwriter Niamh Bury, who will perform a mix of traditional ballads as well as her own songs. 

Other venues

Several other venues throughout the county will be hosting some gigs for TradFest 2024. In the northwestern suburb of Blanchardstown, the Draoicht will host a special tribute to legendary folk singer Ronnie Drew. Ten years after his death, his son Phelim Drew will join forces with others at 8pm on January 24 to pay tribute to his larger-than-life father.

Stockton’s Wing will be spreading smiles at the Grand Hotel in Malahide on Friday, January 26, while harpist and concertina player Aisling Lyons is on stage at Skerries Mills in North County Dublin from 1pm on January 28. She is followed at 5pm by guitarist Shane Hennessey, fresh from a performance at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Further on up the coast in Rush, the Millbank Theatre is hosting fiddle player Bríd Harper from 1pm on January 27, followed at 5pm by American duo J McEvoy and Aileen Mythen, aka The Remedy Club, from 5pm. 

The next day, it's the turn of two of Ireland's best-known and enduring talents. First up at 1pm is Brian Kennedy, who has had a string of hits going back to the mid-1990s. He's followed at 5pm by Scullion co-founder Freddie White, who's been wowing audiences with his performances for more than 40 years. 

If your tastes veer more toward virtuoso banjo playing, then you might want to make your way over to Donabate Parish Hall at lunchtime on January 28 for a performance by Gerry O'Connor, who'll be joined by some of his friends in what should be a rousing, toe-tapping experience. 

Media captionCatch major acts at venues across the city at TradFest.

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