Ards International Guitar Festival Wants You

Young guitarists encouraged to send demos for possible inclusion in the line up. Listen to a podcast featuring music by artists scheduled to appear

Ards International Guitar Festival launched this month with a fine programme of events scheduled to take place in venues throughout Newtownards.

2011 is the 15th year of the festival, and guitar maestros such as Henry McCullough, Carlos Bonell and Steve Kaufman will perform as part of the birthday celebrations.

This year, festival organisers are also asking talented young guitarists to enter a competition to perform at the festival. To meet the criteria, guitarists must be aged between 12 – 21 and perform either an original composition, cover or re-arrangement on electric or acoustic guitar.

Entrants may sing, but the judges will judge purely on guitar composition and technique. Candidates can apply online via the Ards International Guitar Festival website or by submitting a CD at the Ards Arts Centre. Deadline for submissions is Friday, September 17.

The panel will choose three finalists and a wildcard fourth finalist will be chosen by the public. Final candidates will be invited to interview at a public performance in Molly Browns on Wednesday, September 28 at 9pm.

The successful candidate will then perform as part of the Ards International Guitar Festival on Sunday, October 2 and also secure a prize worth up to £500 from Matchett's Music.

'The young guitarist competition is something that we're very excited about,' said Director, Emily Watson. 'Although we always work to attract big name international artists to the festival, it is also about giving local musicians a platform to gain performance experience.

'Places like Molly Browns, the Queen's Hall, the Ards Art Centre and the Ivy Bar are just some of the venues that take part in the festival, and they provide intimate surroundings for all of our performers. There is a warm, communal feel to the festival, and we encourage newcomers to come along and experience that for themselves.

As well as a full programme of live events, the festival also features tours of the Avalon Guitar Factory, where skilled makers have produced world-class acoustic guitars for the likes of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and others over the years.

'This year there is so much to look forward to,' added Watson. 'And as well as the main festival, there are also a series of free fringe events in Ards Arts Centre and Molly Browns, featuring singer-songwriters Paul Casey, Tanya Strowger-Wray, Owen Campbell, Paddy Morgan, Owen & the Monts and Sal Hanvey.'

Listen to the podcast above for further information, and to listen to extracts from Sligo disco guitar heroes Tucan, County Down singer/songwriter Ria Maguire (pictured above), and English guitar maestro Jason Carter.

Ards International Guitar Festival runs from September 30 to October 3. Book tickets here, or call Ards Arts Centre on 028 9181 0803 to request a brochure.