Trad/roots: Great music and family entertainment in store at Fiddler's Green Festival

All roads lead to the beautiful village of Rostrevor in Co Down this July when the Fiddler's Green Festival takes place for the 32nd year. Clannad will be there, as will Peggy Seeger and many top Irish and international musicians influenced by both

Clannad, winners of this year’s Fiddler's Green Hall of Fame Award, will top the bill in Rostrevor
Robert McMillen

NOW Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell... where people go to hear the finest trad and folk music in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

Rostrevor's Fiddler's Green festival will run from July 22 to 28 and 2019 sees its 32nd year. This summer will sees a host of top artists playing in concert, traditional music sessions, a literary pub crawl, an open-air céilí and free musical performances in the village square, a summer school, music master classes, guided walks through beautiful alpine scenery, great food, welcoming pubs and the best of craic.

Top of the musical bill will surely go to the winners of this year's Fiddler's Green Hall of Fame Award, Clannad.

“I can't believe we haven't had Moya and the band here before but we're delighted they're coming in 2019,” says Sorcha Turnbull, of Na Leanaí and one of the festival organisers.

“I think it is the intimate atmosphere of our festival that has enticed them to Co Down but of course, the Donegal band have earned a worldwide reputation for their mix of haunting songs in Irish and English and traditional tunes.”

Previous winners of the Hall of Fame Award have included The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains, The Furies, Altan, De Danann and The Sands Family.

Another award, the prestigious Creative Arts Award, goes to singer, songwriter and life-long political activist, Peggy Seeger. Peggy, the half sister of the legendary Pete Seeger, had her US passport revoked while she was on a European tour during the McCarthy witch-hunt for alleged communists in 1957.

She opted to stay In Europe where she met Ewan McColl, the couple sharing their music and activism until his death in 1989. (McColl wrote songs as varied as Dirty Old Town and a song he wrote for Peggy, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face). Peggy will be taking part in a Q&A and playing some of her best-known songs. It should be quite a night.

What do you get if you add three of my favourite musicians together – Zoe Conway (fiddle), Donal Lunny (bouzouki) and Máirtín O'Connor (button accordion)?

The answer is Zodomo, a dream come true for traditional music fans while also on the Fiddler's Green bill on different nights will be Kevin Burke, the fabulous fiddler from The Bothy Band and the brilliant Tim Edey is bringing his accordion to Rostrevor for a show that will undoubtedly blow you away.

Making a welcome return to Rostrevor is the immensely popular singer songwriter Kieran Goss. Kieran has a huge local following – he lived for a while in Rostrevor – and tickets will be in high demand for his delicious mix of Irish folk and Nashville while the brilliantly thoughtful singer Declan O'Rourke makes his second appearance at the festival.

Declan won the 2018 RTÉ folk music award for Best Original Folk Track, and he is sure to win a host of new admirers when he takes to the stage in Rostrevor. Of course, it would not be Fiddler's Green without the internationally acclaimed Sands Family giving us one of their memorable performances at the closing concert, literally ending on a high note after eight days and nights of music and fun featuring over 200 events, many of which are free of charge.

Named after a small clearing located at the southern end of the ancient oakwood above the town, Fiddler's Green has grown from a weekend to a week-long event where you can savour all the good things that life has to offer – great music, good conversation, mountain walking, eating great food, learning, all in a festival famous for its sense of openness and friendship.

Peace and Reconciliation has always been at the forefront of the festival. It was started in 1987 by Tommy Sands who got funding from Co-Operation North, the all-Ireland peace-building charity established in 1979 and now called Co-operation Ireland.

Each year The Music of Healing event is organised on the Thursday night of the festival and this is how it is described in the programme.

“Through dialogue, music and the arts, we examine 'a higher quality of disagreement' furthering understanding, peace building, reconciliation, justice and healing by exchanging each other's traditional teachings and visions on major current issues such as hospitality, homelessness and respect for reciprocal pluralism.”

Sorcha remembers one particular night.

“I remember back in 2008, we had Gerry Adams and Jeffrey Donaldson both attend the Music for Healing event – but there was no handshake” she recalls.

“Later, however, when Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Pete Seeger's grandson, was singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone, everyone noticed that the two politicians were singing along. I think that shows the power that music can have. ‘If they can sing together, why can't they work together?' people were asking.”

With up to 200 events, this year's festival caters for music fanatics, families who wish to enjoy a safe, child-focused festival or practice some yoga or Tai Chi or those who just come just to soak up the scenery, the friendliness and the free outdoor music.

No need to wrap up in oilskins and jumper, Fiddler's Green will make you feel cozy and welcome!

:: You can get full information from


FOUR influential traditional musicians from Ireland and Scotland have collaborated to create new music and songs inspired by modern and ancient Irish and Scottish Gaelic poems.

Julie Fowlis, Éamon Doorley, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre have been working together over the past 18 months setting music to a diverse collection of poetry, which culminated in special performances of the new works at Scotland's Gaelic College, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in September and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, in October 2017.

Whilst modern Gaelic poetry has remained strong in Ireland and Scotland, the composition of the traditional 'big' songs has declined significantly within the sphere of traditional arts in both countries and this project is a personal and collaborative response to that.

This project has been inspired by the work of Seán Ó Riada, Peadar Ó Dubhda, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and others who breathed new life to Gaelic poetry while also renewing and rejuvenating traditional music by adding to its corpus new and fitting 'traditional' airs.

Tickets for the concert at the First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street Belfast are available from

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