Bangor's Open House Festival celebrates 10th birthday this summer

Nick Lowe will play this year's Open House Festival in Bangor
Nick Lowe will play this year's Open House Festival in Bangor

BANGOR'S Open House Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer.

The music and arts festival will be staging ticketed events at Bangor Castle's Walled Garden during August,  a series of free events in the city throughout July and August, and a number of fringe events at the charity’s recently refurbished music venue, The Court House, on Bangor seafront.

Comedian Micky Bartlett, who performed at the inaugural Open House Festival in August 2013, will open the run of Walled Garden events on Wednesday August 16, while songwriter extraordinaire Nick Lowe - known for his hits I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, Cruel to be Kind, and (What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, will perform at the Garden on Saturday August 26.

Comedian Micky Bartlett
Comedian Micky Bartlett

Reflecting on the past decade, Open House founder and director Kieran Gilmore said: “When we brought the

festival to Bangor after fourteen years of running events in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, our objective was, and remains to this day, to help regenerate the town we lived in and loved through arts and culture.

“Well, a lot has changed since then. Bangor is of course now a city. The cultural renaissance that we

championed is thriving, with a host of talented musicians, artists and writers emerging from this small place in the past decade, including [local indie band] The Florentinas, who are poised for international recognition.

This year's line-up also features two specially commissioned events: Swordfishtrombone, a celebration of Tom Waits’ classic album featuring performances from Duke Special, Kyron Bourke, Clara Tracey and Mike Mormencha, and a tribute to Northern Ireland jazz and blues singer Ottilie Patterson from three top local jazz and blues artists, Dana Masters, Winnie Ama and Siobhan Brown.

Winnie Ama
Winnie Ama

Other acts include Open House regulars, Van Morrison tribute band Celtic Soul, blues guitar legend Ronnie Greer and band, and comedian Shane Todd.

This year’s classic films in the Walled Garden are the 1992 hit The Bodyguard, and The Full Monty, released in 1997. And the film version of Bangor author Colin Bateman’s debut novel Divorcing Jack celebrates its 25th anniversary this August with a special screening at The Court House, featuring an introduction from Colin himself.

The annual Pickie to Pier swim, resurrected by Open House in 2019 following a thirty-year absence, will take place on Saturday June 24, while free events include Picnic in the Park concerts at Ward Park every Sunday afternoon in July and August. This year’s line-up features Fleetwood Dreams, The Arms of Venus de Milo, and Dublin Clash tribute band, El Clash Combo.

Lisa Hannigan performing at The Walled Garden last year
Lisa Hannigan performing at The Walled Garden last year

The Seaside Revival Vintage Festival, a celebration of Bangor’s heyday as a thriving seaside resort, returns to the city’s seafront on Saturday August 12 with a full day of free entertainment including live music, swing dancing, and the annual classic car show.

“This year’s line-up has a more home-grown focus, with some incredibly talented and highly acclaimed Northern Irish performers - which we believe is the best way to celebrate 10 years of doing our thing in Bangor," says Gilmore.

“It has been difficult at times,” said Open House development director, Alison Gordon, of how the festival has endured over the past decade.

“Covid changed the course of the festival and we had to adapt to a different landscape afterwards. And the current funding crisis has obviously proven to be immensely challenging.

"Ards and North Down Borough Council have supported us from the start, for which we are enormously grateful. And the support we receive from our audiences and the general public has grown and flourished year by year. In 2013 barely anyone in Bangor had heard about Open House.

"Today, it would be difficult to live in the city and surrounding areas and not know about it. There is still a lot of

work to do, and we are always planning for the future, but for now we want to focus on having a wonderful

summer and a successful tenth anniversary festival.”

Tickets for the Walled Garden events go on sale today, with more events to be announced in the coming weeks. To buy tickets and view the full programme, see openhousefestival.com