Derry International Music Festival Announced

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin unveil details of the inaugural folk and roots-infused programme, welcoming over 250 musicians from across the world to the city in 2016

The organisers of the Derry International Irish Music Festival have released the details of its programme at a launch event in Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin featuring festival patron, Cara Dillon.

The festival will take place in the city between January 31 and February 7 2016, and will include 60 events with performances by over 250 musicians arriving from across Ireland, Scotland, and as far away as Los Angeles and Cape Breton Island in Canada.

Transatlantic Sessions, an ensemble of internationally revered folk and Americana musicians, will be the festival’s headline event on Friday, February 5 at the Millennium Forum. From the award-winning Pelicula/BBC TV series, the Transatlantic Sessions continue to revisit shared roots and forge new common ground between today’s finest Celtic and Americana musicians.

Under the musical directorship of fiddle legend Aly Bain and dobro maestro Jerry Douglas, the house band will feature luminaries of the traditional music scene such as Michael McGoldrick, John Doyle, Donald Shaw and John McCusker.

The featured vocalists this year are Derry’s own Cara Dillon, Karen Matheson - frontwoman of Scotland’s most recognized folk outfit, Capercaillie, alongside blues singer Rhiannon Giddens (of Carolina Chocolate Drops) and LA-based Grammy-nominees Milk Carton Kids.

In what will be one of the first 1916 commemorations of its 100th anniversary year, sean-nós composer Lorcán Mac Mathúna will present a specially commissioned show entitled 1916: Visionaries and their Words on Tuesday, February 2.

Inspired by the words and spirit of the proclamation, this Creative Centenaries event will be an audiovisual experience of music, song, and archive imagery as an artistic response to the vision of The Rising’s leaders.


Returning from collecting a string of international awards for his travel cookbook Feast or Famine, local chef Emmett McCourt will present Food & Folksong: A Worldwide Irish Legacy on Thursday February 4, exploring how Irish dishes, like our folk songs, have travelled with our ancestors across the globe.

The evening will include specially chosen musical performances 'in the round' by esteemed folk singers The Henry Girls, Mary Dillon, Kathleen Mac Innes, Alan Burke, Daoirí Farrell and Kate Crossan; interspersed with themed gourmet canapés.

Winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Group, Flook, return to The Glassworks on Saturday, February 6 with their unmistakable folk-fusion sound for the first time since their sold-out performance at Fleadh Cheoil 2013.

Adam Holmes & the Embers, one of Scotland’s most hotly tipped singer-songwriters, will join the band for the concert, which is presented in association with An Droichead and the Ulster University TradSoc.

Over the course of the festival, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin will bring to life its newly completed music academy building, Acadamh Ceoil Chaoimhín Uí Dhochartaigh. Alongside hosting a string of high quality singing, dancing and instrument workshops delivered by visiting performers, the building will be opened officially with a gala concert on Sunday, February 7, which will include a performance of the Neil Martin composition, '100 Fiddles at 55° North'.

The festival is sure to be a truly ‘citywide’ event, with numerous bars, cafés and hotels coming on board for a top class Trad Trail between February 4 and 7. Included in the line-up for the trail are exciting young bands at the forefront of the music scene, including Derry/Armagh band Connla, Scottish BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners Talisk, Dublin-based Four Winds, and Belfast trad-fusion band Athrú.

The festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council through the Derry Legacy Fund, with elements of the programme also being funded by Foras na Gaeilge and the Community Relations Council.

Across the week there will also be a range of free events, as well as festival artist residencies in the local schools, and the premiere performance of Sasquatch, a musical theatre show based on Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock’s book of the same name.

Cara Dillon, Festival Patron, said: 'It would be impossible for me to overstate how proud I am to be patron of the festival. My concert here with the Orchestra of Ireland during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013 was probably one of my all time highlights, and the prospect of performing as part of the incredible Transatlantic Sessions is equally thrilling.

'A festival of this kind has been long overdue in our corner of the world and I look forward to promoting it far and wide for years to come.'

Alisha McCallion, Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, said: 'The line-up for the festival is amazing, with something for everyone. I am particularly delighted that the Transatlantic Sessions are among the many acts performing in the city.

'The Council is delighted to support festivals that build on the city and district’s musical talent and cultural offering. Well done to everyone involved in organising this fantastic event and I look forward to being part of it next year.'

Maria McAlister, Traditional Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: 'The Arts Council is proud to support this impressive festival of traditional music through the Derry Legacy Fund. This fund ensures the importance and continued investment in the arts and cultural sector of this vibrant city, building on Derry’s amazing year as City of Culture 2013.

'The arts have a unique social value for bringing our people and communities together, challenging social exclusion and attracting visitors to the city who help with the local economy. With such a exciting programme on offer, I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy.'

Full details of the festival programme are now available online at and tickets can be purchased online or by contacting Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin’s box office on 028 7126 4132. Tickets for Transatlantic Sessions can be purchased directly through the Millennium Forum.