Month of music and arts kicks off as Open House Festival hits Bangor

Seaside town gears up for its biggest annual event, with major names this year including The Waterboys and Public Image Ltd's Northern Ireland debut

The hottest month in Bangor's calendar has hit the seaside town with the start of the sixth Open House Festival, which runs all throughout August.

Over 31 days the popular County Down destination will play host to 144 specially curated music, literary, food and drink, theatre, film and art events, including some major names in entertainment.

The first big weekend sees The Waterboys return to Bangor 30 years after their last appearance in the town – this time playing an open-air concert on the seafront, overlooking the marina. This is the first of three large outdoor concerts on the seafront during the month. American/Icelandic singer-songwriter, John Grant, plays on Sunday August 19, with support from acclaimed singer and electronic composer, Hannah Peel (who has recently moved to Bangor) as well as the Open House Festival Choir.

On Saturday August 25, punk icon John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, brings his band Public Image Ltd to Northern Ireland for the first time, with support from The Undertones, XSLF and The Outcasts. That afternoon, Lydon will talk to Bangor author and former punk Colin Bateman, in a special interview and Q&A session at the Marine Court Hotel, overlooking the site of the concert.

Public Image Bangor

'We’re thrilled that our three big weekend concerts have attracted so much attention locally, nationally and even globally,' says Festival Director, Kieran Gilmore. 'We’ve had tickets bought by people in Canada, America and various European countries, as well as the rest of the UK and Ireland. So this year, Open House Festival is well and truly putting Bangor on the map as an international cultural tourism destination.'

Other headline guests appearing throughout the month include singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, former Thin Lizzy guitarist, Eric Bell, the women’s rights activist and great-granddaughter of leading suffragist, Emmeline Pankhurst, DR Helen Pankhurst, and the man in the famous white suit, Martin Bell, OBE. The lineup of top local artists and performers includes King Cedar, aka Stephen Macartney, The Darkling Air, Mandy Bell, daughter of the late David McWilliams who has just launched her debut album, Kitt Phillipa, Manukahunney Blue, mentalist Joel Mawhinney, comedian Nuala McKeever, authors Patrick Gregg and Emma Heatherington and poet Moyra Donaldson.

'Of course Open House Festival isn’t just about headliners and big concerts, Gilmore explains. 'They’re obviously a vital component, but so are our smaller bespoke events like Folk on a Boat, Crossing The Lough – the story of the first person to swim across Belfast Lough, Bangor Rocks – a specially curated music inspired bus tour of the town, and our hugely popular food and drink events.'

More than one third of this year’s events are free, from music gigs to picnics and art exhibitions to workshops, and 75 of all events in the programme finish in time to get the last train back to Belfast. And in a festival first, Translink are running a special pre-book midnight bus to the Europa Buscentre after The Waterboys concert on Friday August 3.


The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Richard Smart commented: 'It is fantastic to see the Open Festival back in Bangor for the sixth consecutive year where it will provide an array of cultural events and activities for all ages and interests.

'The festival has grown from strength to strength bringing Bangor alive with an exciting mix of international artists, home grown talent and household names. This year three outdoor concerts have been introduced to the festival line up as well as a brand new initiative called Seaside Revival: Bangor-by-the-sea which will allow people to tap into the nostalgia of Bangor’s past through a number of vintage inspired events. I am very much looking forward to welcoming visitors to the Borough as well as seeing our many local businesses flourish through the duration of the festival this August.'

Maria McAlister, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: 'With its eclectic range of music, visual arts, literature and family-friendly events, Open House Festival, now in its sixth year, has firmly established itself as an annual summer highlight in Bangor attracting high-quality, world-class international acts. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific festival which demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities closer together as well as being a tool for economic regeneration.'

Terence Brannigan, Tourism NI Chairman, added: 'Tourism NI is proud to support the sixth annual Open House Festival which attracts thousands of visitors, both locally and internationally to Bangor every August. This home-grown festival which works with more than 100 local businesses, showcases a huge range of local and international talent, with a packed programme of events from visual art to food and drink and comedy to local history. Events such as the Open House Festival are so important in raising the profile of our tourism offering in Northern Ireland and generating significant economic impact and I wish the organisers, sponsors and attendees another successful year.'

Find out more about Open House Festival including full details of this year's events at