Atlantic Sessions

Portrush, Portstewart and Portballintrae light up with four days of live music dedicated to the late North Coast guitarist Henry McCullough

Festival Details


Thursday, 17 November 2016 to Sunday, 20 November 2016
Atlantic Sessions showcases over 50 artists in over 30 venues throughout four days. Cafés, restaurants, hotels, pubs, coffee shops, music venues and the Town Halls across Portrush, Portstewart and Portballintrae will be lit up with gigs from the finest performers across Northern Ireland. Audiences can follow music trails in intimate venues throughout the three resorts with a different live performance taking place every hour, and it’s all admission free. 

Now in its eighth year and firmly established in the music calendar, the Causeway Coast and Glens Council event has emerged as a permanent feature on the cultural calendar and has gathered a reputation both among performers and music lovers. Live music ranges from traditional, bluegrass and Americana to electronic, indie and acoustic singer-songwriters. It offers a platform for emerging talent as well as established artists from across Northern Ireland and an opportunity to bring their music beyond urban hubs.

It has a significant role to play in developing tourism, appreciating the ongoing success stories which make us proud of our indigenous music scene and showcasing the Causeway Coast and Glens internationally. This year’s festival will coincide with the Causeway Coast and Glens Restaurant Week, a culinary celebration which includes themed nights, food tours and taster menus, using the very best of fresh local and seasonal produce, with fine wines and artisan ales.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Alderman Maura Hickey, said: 'Atlantic Sessions has established itself as one of the Borough's premier live music events. As a tourist destination, attractions like this help us to extend our visitor season. The fantastic variety of free musical entertainment, set against our beautiful seaside locations, is a winning combination which helps to create the event's uniquely vibrant and warm atmosphere.'

This year’s festival is programmed by Snow Water, and its Director, Carolyn Mathers commented: 'Northern Ireland is extraordinary in the richness of its talent and our artists are receiving international awards and acclaim. Atlantic Sessions will celebrate our incredible music scene, musical heritage, artistic excellence, hospitality, and with the backdrop of stunning coastal scenery and magnificent views.

'This year we will feature a series of new collaborations and 'In the Round' concerts exclusively for the Atlantic Sessions, seven of the NI Music Prize 2016 nominees, EP and Single launches, and audiences will have an opportunity to witness our finest singer-songwriters partner together in intimate environments.'

Causeway Coast and Glens Council are honoured to dedicate Atlantic Sessions 2016 to Henry McCullough. Not only was Henry an instinctive guitarist and singer-songwriter, he was also proud of his North Coast roots and passionate about helping his fellow musicians in any way he could. 

Help Musicians UK, the Atlantic Sessions Headline Sponsor, commented: 'Help Musicians is proud to be a partner of the Atlantic Sessions. This marks the first launch of Help Musicians NI, the region’s own independent music charity, outside of Belfast. As our first outreach operation, this is a milestone for our 95-year-organisation and we are looking forward to supporting and embellishing the unique musical ethos and heritage of the region.

'I would also like to take this opportunity to tribute the incredible career of Henry McCullough, a musician the charity knew very well, and we are honoured to be part of a Festival which remembers his musical legacy.'



Thursday 17th November at 7pm, admission free
Flowerfield Arts Centre
With full band and screening of Colm Laverty's film about the making of the new album, ‘This is Nowhere’
“I love your music” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
“I’m completely obsessed” Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol)
“Really beautiful” Lauren Laverne, BBC 6 Music


An Evening with John T Davis
Thursday 17th November at 7pm
Portrush Film Theatre
A celebration film and music, with Q&A and screenings of Shellshock Rock and Hobo


David C Clements and Friends
Thursday 17th November at 8.30pm, admission free
Portstewart Town Hall
An 'in the round' concert exclusively for the Atlantic Sessions. David C Clements has become recognised as one of the most captivating live performers in Ireland. This unique opportunity to witness some of the best singer-songwriters collaborate together in such an intimate environment is certainly not to be missed.


Errol Walsh and Ted Ponsonby
Thursday 17th November at 11pm, admission free
The Anchor, Portstewart
Errol Walsh is an internationally award winning singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland who is currently back home in Ireland and working with Ted Ponsonby, a songwriter from Letterkenny who also plays acoustic and electric guitars, dobro and Hammond organ.


FRIDAY 18th:


From Waylon To Willie – Celebrating The Outlaws
A Raised Voices night with Ralph McLean
Friday 18th November at 6pm, admission free
Flowerfield Arts Centre
A celebration of the great and the good of American roots music.  With a little history from Ralph, some vintage footage and a selection of live music from Barry Johnston and Mark Crockard performing the music of Willie, Waylon, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zant and more it’s going to be a night of musical treats not to be missed.



PORTS with Joshua Burnside and Rachael Boyd
Friday 18th November at 8.30pm, admission free
Portstewart Town Hall
The PORTS star is firmly in the ascendant, with the release of their debut album “The Devil is a Songbird” this year it has been shortlisted for this year’s NI Music prize and their track “The Few and Far Between” has been chosen as the sound of the Northern Ireland Tourist Boards two year “Say Hello to More” campaign across the British Isles.


Michael Mormecha (Mojo Fury) Debut Solo Album ‘LOFi LiFE’
Friday 18th November at 11pm, admission free
An opportunity to hear the NI Music Prize nominated album and a brave and contemporary take on alternative indie pop.
“Darkly sensitive with an experimental edge” – Hot Press
“Wonderfully unique” – Artrocker
 “A big shimmering sound…echoes in your head long after listening” – Chord Blossom


In The Round with Duke Special, Verse Chorus Verse and The Darkling Air
Saturday 19th November at 7pm, admission free
Portrush Theatre at Kiwis
Duke Special inhabits a world unlike any other – a world filled with vaudeville-esque sensibility, sing-a-longs and addictive melodies . VerseChorusVerse is the current moniker for Tony Wright.
 The Darkling Air is songwriter and vocalist Rachel McCarthy (Farriers) and composer and producer Michael Keeney (Foy Vance , Duke Special),  released their debut album ‘Untamed & Beloved’ on October 21st.


Documenta, Ex-Magician and special guests
Saturday 19th November at 9.30pm, admission free
The Venue at Kiwis
A chance to hear two NI Music Prize nominated albums in one event, with special guests. Influenced by the English guitar minimalism emanating from 1980s Rugby, the darkness and light of Detroit’s hit factory, and the German Kosmische set’s concrète groove - Documenta present a true psychedelia through repetition, melody and rhythm. Exmagician's debut album Scan The Blue, released by Bella Union on March 25th, sees longtime collaborators Danny Todd and James Smith looking to the future with new vigour and confidence.


SUNDAY 20th:
Sunday Brunch with Tom McShane and Best Boy Grip
MC Ralph McLean
Sunday 20th November at 12pm, admission free
Flowerfield Arts Centre
The Sunday Brunch Sessions have become one of the most talked-about items on the festival calendar. Coffee, croissants, and with music from Best Boy Grip – a songwriter with a superb sense of melodic invention which will be showcased on the beautiful Flowerfield grand piano – and Tom McShane, making his Portstewart debut with his majestic, left of centre songs.


In The Round with Ken Haddock and Matt McGinn
Sunday 20th November at 3pm, admission free (venue tbc)
Two of Northern Ireland’s most revered songwriters come together for a beautiful afternoon session of mellow, soulful songs and sweet guitar playing. Ken Haddock has it all – in addition to being a fine guitarist, he has great songs and a great big voice - the kind of vocal chords most singers only dream of. Matt McGinn is two albums into a career with a rising trajectory, thanks to a command of melody and lyrics that deliver songs with a rare insight into the human condition.


Jealous of the Birds and Ryan Vail New Single Launch
Sunday 20th November at 7pm, admission free
Flowerfield Arts Centre
Two of our newest brightest stars come together for a very special night at The Flowerfield Arts centre. Ryan Vail is a musical pioneer with vision. Ryan blends the worlds of electronica, folk and classical, always experimenting combining classical instruments with unique methods of recording and composition.Jealous of the Birds is the stage name of Naomi Hamilton hotly tipped Irish songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her debut album Parma Violets, released in May, matches introspective indie-folk with fiery post-punk.


Arborist Afterparty
Sunday 20th November at 9.30pm, admission free (tickets on door)
The Anchor Complex
Arborist are a Belfast-based band; the product of the musical and lyrical misadventures of Mark McCambridge, surrounded by a cast of accomplished and well-travelled musicians. They have built up a solid following around Ireland and beyond since 2013 with EP releases, tours and support slots with the likes of Low, Cat Power and British Sea Power. The festival finale will feature their debut album HOME BURIAL, released on 11th Nov on Kirkinriola Records.

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