Bangor's Open House Festival announces initial line-up for August

With live events now on their way back as Covid restrictions continue to ease, Bangor's Open House Festival have announced their plans for three weeks of live music and arts this August. David Roy found out more about their initial line-up for 2021...

Marian Keyes will be appearing at this year's Open House Festival in Bangor

BANGOR'S Open House Festival has announced its initial line-up for 2021, bringing three weeks of music, comedy, spoken word and classic cinema to Bangor Castle's Walled Garden in August.

All events will be open-air, fully seated and Covid-compliant, and there'll also be no need to worry about the weather: audiences will be protected from the elements beneath a 'stretch canvas cover'.

Headline acts include acclaimed Irish musician Mary Coughlan, comedian, former doctor and author of the bestselling memoir This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay, and best-selling Irish author, Marian Keyes.

There are also plenty of performers and artists from the north on this year's bill, including comedians Shane Todd and Paddy Raff and musicians Duke Special and Dana Masters.

"If there is one thing the past year has taught us, it's to appreciate what we have on our own doorsteps," says festival director Kieran Gilmore of organising the 2021 Open House Festival during the ongoing global pandemic.

"We have all been very active in supporting our local shops, businesses and restaurants, and we believe that ethos should include the championing of local artists and performers.

"Organising this year's festival has been extremely difficult, and we have been working blind to a large degree.

"Obviously, the situation has affected every element of our planning - from audience numbers, to staging, to ticket prices, but our team has worked tirelessly to create a safe space and deliver a dynamic programme of events.

"We firmly believe people will be so happy to be back at live events that they will work with us to ensure we deliver them safely, and within the law."

This Is Going to Hurt author Adam Kay will also be appearing at the festival in August

The festival director is also looking forward to making use of one of their regular venues, Bangor Castle's Walled Garden, which offers patrons free parking, toilets and a café right in the town centre.

"It's one of our favourite venues anyway," says Gilmore.

"We love it, and our audiences do too."

Dana Masters is an acclaimed singer who has toured and performed with Van Morrison

Sonya Whitefield, arts development officer with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: "The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to see Open House launch their August festival.

"Despite the huge challenges presented in programming a festival due to the ongoing pandemic, the team at Open House has curated an impressive programme that truly celebrates Northern Irish talent.

"As the arts sector slowly and safely reopens, it's heartening to see live events return for audiences to enjoy. Congratulations to all."

Duke Special

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Stephen Reid, said: "I am delighted that organisers have managed to secure a superb line-up of live events for this year's Open House Festival.

"The festival always attracts an exciting mix of artists to the Borough and our beautiful Bangor Castle Walled Garden will provide a perfect open-air location where everyone can remain socially distanced under a protective weatherproof covering.

"The festival is one of the highlights of our local arts calendar and it will give everyone something to look forward to this August."

Although this year's festival won't have a printed programme, full information and line-up updates will be available via the festival website, emailing list and social media.

The festival's ticketing system will also be different to allow for social distancing.

Shane Todd

"Ticketing has probably posed the biggest challenge for us," explains Kieran Gilmore.

"We need to ensure we can seat the maximum number of people in a socially distanced setting and have created a bubble system.

"It isn't at all what audiences will be used to, but we would ask for their patience and co-operation - and as capacity is dramatically reduced, we advise people to book early to avoid disappointment."

The Open House Festival also have a new 'official festival bookseller' for 2021 in the form of Belfast's premier independent book shop No Alibis, which will be offering a 10 per cent discount on all books featured in this year's programme both online at and in person at their shop on Botanic Avenue.

Additional dates, events and locations may be added to the programme over the coming months, if restrictions allow.

Keep up to date with the latest festival line-up at and tickets are due to go on sale from 10am on Thursday May 27.

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