Kilkenny Arts Festival celebrates its 50 years with another huge lineup of artists

Kilkenny Arts Festival is coming back from August 10 to 20 to gather many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Kilkenny, a mediaeval city. 

For ten days, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses, and gardens host various artists from all around the world. The Festival will stage events from outdoor theatre, and contemporary dance, to classical musical performances.


This year also, the Kilkenny Arts Festival will display an exciting musical programme. Led by violinist and chief conductor Thomas Zehetmair, the Irish Chamber Orchestra will perform a wonderfully rich programme that encompass pieces from Linda Buckley’s gorgeous Fall Approaches, inspired by Icelandic poetry, to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The Carducci String Quartet will perform its diverse repertoire, from Beethoven, Haydn and Mendelssohn to the contemporary American composers Philip Glass and Caroline Shaw.

Oumou Sangaré, known for standing up for women’s rights through wassoulou, a style of popular music derived from vocal and instrumental traditions of rural southern Mali, will perform on August 12.

Philip Selway, known for being the drummer in Radiohead, and a multi-talented composer, singer and performer, will play at St Canice’s Cathedral on August 11.

hVPzsmWCG08BcMAuGDktAi1AP1EdDHQhejHYWb6LCLBS3vGhsg6n 327B2etM7KcHeSqwG8Hbwc3oYvACBtE mFuomtNPPu866dt Gphp IF rjrShL oCm

Radiohead drummer @philipselway is coming to Kilkenny. Image via kilkennyartsfestival.

Immersive events for the public

Highlights also include the premiere of The Local, a new site immersive theatre work from Asylum Productions, and Bench Tales, a trilogy of plays from Barnstorm Theatre where the audience becomes detectives.

Architects of Air will return to Castle Park with their luminarium, Timisien. A luminarium is a giant inflatable sculpture with bursting colour, various shapes, and lights. Visitors can roam inside this giant balloon filled with spectacular chambers.

A trio of satirical films, The Scorched Earth Trilogy, will be projected onto the walls of Kilkenny. The audience will be able to watch the films from the street, and listen in via headphones. Each film is a unique blend of opera, music, street art, and animation that address some of our society’s current topics with humour and wit.

ayItDlBfJPClYyoi3Uo3qNhV44RX SIwZFLW0TzS3ReNQD L90RNv Nnzp84aUwF0FC2dSzYsa2IrBjcUVMK5wbuQiDBqBZPt2qH0poRhW qyK

Architects of Air designs will bring a monumental inflatable luminaria to this year’s festival. Image via kilkennyartsfestival.

Literature and poetry

Accompanied by the Other World collective, Manchán Magan will guide the audience on a journey into the myths and mystery of the Gaelic world, reflecting on insights that the Irish language offers into nature and landscape. With Slí na Samhlaíochta (The Way of Imagination), a lyrical and musical performance, the writer explores the realms of Gaelic consciousness.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Seamus Heaney, leading contemporary poets will explore some of Heaney’s most celebrated translations. The Testament of Cresseid by Robert Henryson, the heroic poem Beowulf and The Midnight Verdict that brought together Heaney’s translations of passages from Ovid’s Metamorphoses with excerpts from Brian Merriman’s poem Cúirt an Mheán Oíche will be the ones discussed.

Hubert Butler Essay Prize 

The Hubert Butler Essay Prize honours the memoir of Kilkenny native essayist Hubert Butler, with the annual Hubert Butler Lecture. As the festival celebrates its 50th anniversary, both the Hubert Butler Lecture and the Hubert Butler Essay Prize are part of the programme. 

The Hubert Butler Essay Prize was founded in 2018 and promotes the art of essay-writing across Europe. Since the inauguration of the Hubert Butler Essay Prize, previous subjects have explored the ideas such as cosmopolitanism, internationalism, group identity, the fall-out from global pandemic, and the increasing abuse of political power in autocratic regimes. The title for this year’s essay is: “How far can we trust science?”

Professor Roy Foster, chair of the judges, writes: ‘In an affectionate essay about the French ‘father of prehistory’ Jacques Boucher de Perthes, Hubert Butler quoted a characteristic pronouncement by his subject : “Science helps us to prove but prevents us understanding.’ For this competition, the judges decided to tackle the challenge of scientific advances such as artificial intelligence.

Essays will be judged by Catriona Crowe, Roy Foster (Chair), Nicholas Grene, Eva Hoffman and Barbara Schwepcke. The first prize will be €1,500, with two second prizes of €500 each. Submissions are now open and the closing date is 30 June 2023. 

8 m7MGaCSfN7lCoUh XAZdDMkei9TlR8C3JseKfLdDeLopCBMb3PXvxrLb 8axl3zCWgj9BcJ1i4r 6iW52PpC2GPzkTU

The Hubert Butler Essay Prize honours the memoir of Kilkenny native essayist Hubert Butler, with the annual Hubert Butler Lecture. Image via kilkennyartsfestival.

Celebrating 50 years of the festival

Artists, audience members, volunteers, and the local community will share their memories of the festival for the ‘Echoes of a Festival: Celebrating 50 years of Kilkenny Arts Festival’ initiative. The collected memories will be part of a special supplement in the local newspaper Kilkenny People. It is also going to be displayed online during the festival from the beginning of August and in a physical installation presented as part of the Festival from 10 – 20 August.

The public will delve into their past experiences and recollections of the Kilkenny Arts Festival and produce written accounts, voice notes, or video clips. Whether it is fond memories of performances, a meeting with an inspiring artist, or the general atmosphere of the festival, anyone can share his own experience.

In order to facilitate the collection of these precious memories, two afternoons will be dedicated to the memory collection at the Smithwick’s Experience on Saturday 1 July and Saturday 15 July.

Kilkenny Arts Festival will celebrate its 50 years by gathering many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in the Marble City. There will be something for everyone with an exciting programme that ranges from concerts to contemporary dance; visual art to immersive theatre.

Marylou Prevost
Marylou Prevost

After a Master's degree in journalism and one year as a journalist in France, I landed in Dublin to write for Babylon Radio. I mostly love writing about cultural events in Ireland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *