Rostrevor and Carlingford joined in song, music and a shared sense of place - Trad

Folk singer Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin performing at a Gig for Gaza in Belfast on Saturday

Colum Sands, Zoë Conway and John McIntyre launch A Lough of Songs, a series of concerts in Carlingford and Rostrevor
Colum Sands, Zoë Conway and John McIntyre launch A Lough of Songs, a series of concerts in Carlingford and Rostrevor

Traditional and folk music are firmly rooted in a particular place, in a way that many other genres aren’t, and that is particularly true of Ireland.

That’s what makes a unique collaboration between counties Down and Louth all the more interesting – and entertaining – as Rostrevor Folk Club and Carlingford Heritage Trust come together to bring world-class folk and Irish music to both sides of Carlingford Lough.

Rostrevor Folk Club is run by folk singers Colum Sands, Fil Campbell and Tom McFarland.

It’s a not-for-profit club with a really strong community following and the organisers are all great believers in live music.

The objectives of Carlingford Heritage Trust are to “promote, foster and encourage in every practical way the environmental, cultural, social and economic development of the town of Carlingford, Co Louth and the areas of counties Louth and Down which have a shoreline with Carlingford Lough”.

The A Lough of Songs initiative consists of six concerts in both May and August, with artists performing in Carlingford and Rostrevor on successive nights.

Zoë Conway and John McIntyre have presented a popular spring and summer series at Carlingford Heritage Centre for some years, introducing and playing with the cream of Irish music.

Across the lough, Rostrevor Folk Club at Crawford’s, with Colum Sands as its guiding light, has been presenting top folk and Irish music artists for over seven years.

It is hoped that the collaboration will promote world class live music across around Carlingford Lough, building connections as it grows.

The programme features guest artists of the calibre of Liam Ó Maonlaí, Dónal O’Connor and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Tim Edey, Alfi, Bill Whelan, Cathy Jordan and Barry Kerr.

“Our spring and summer concerts are always special events,” says co-artistic director of the series, Zoë Conway, “but this new connection across the lough between north and south feels like a truly special collaboration.

“I find these two villages of Rostrevor and Carlingford have that magical quality situated between mountain, forest and sea, that writers, musicians and artists have been inspired by for generations, so this new relationship is a great artistic pairing too.”

Husband John McIntyre agrees.

“We are really look forward to welcoming some of the finest musicians in Ireland to share are two very fine music rooms on the shores of Carlingford Lough,” he says.

“We are honoured that this year’s programme includes local musicians Fiachra Meek and Dónal O’Connor, both originally from the Cooley Peninsula.

“It is wonderful to have a platform to invite established, well-travelled musicians connected to the area home to play.”

A Lough of Songs puts a fresh and welcome breeze in the sails of that timeless voyage with a wonderful series of concerts across the lough from Carlingford to Rostrevor and back

—  Colum Sands

Any mention of Rostrevor, of course, will bring the Sands family to mind and Colum is a leading light in the new initiative.

He is someone who knows the temporal and spiritual life of the lough, the people who live around it and the beauty of its landscape.

“People have found ways to carry their songs over land and water for as long they have watched the turning of the tide,” he says.

“I have always loved observing how those songs, with their stories and tunes, have found their own quiet ways of carrying people on great journeys too.

“The launch of A Lough of Songs puts a fresh and welcome breeze in the sails of that timeless voyage with a wonderful series of concerts across the lough from Carlingford to Rostrevor and back. Long may it flourish and help the songs and people from far and near to keep on meeting and greeting in a spirit of neighbourliness around the lough and around the shores of the world.”

A Lough of Songs opens on May 12 with Donal O’Connor and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh playing in Carlingford Heritage Centre while the following day, the mighty Tim Edey will be rocking the Rostrevor Folk Club.

Hothouse Flower Liam Ó Maonlaí plays Carlingford Heritage Centre on May 19 and Rostrevor on May 20 and to finish off the Spring Season, trad and old-timey band Alfi play in Carlingford on May 26 and in Rostrevor on May 27.


AWARD-WINNING folk musician Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin will headline a Belfast gig in aid of Gaza tomorrow night.

Eoghan - who won Best Folk Singer and Best Original Folk Track at the recent RTÉ Folk Awards - will play at the recently-refurbished Beehive Bar on the Falls Road.

The evening will be hosted by People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. Gig for Gaza will raise vital funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians.
“Gig for Gaza will build on Belfast’s huge outpouring of solidarity for Palestine amid the ongoing genocide,” said the West Belfast MLA.

“We’re raising much-needed funding for Medical Aid for Palestinians, which is doing life-saving work in the face of Israel’s barbaric actions.

“Just as importantly, we are raising awareness and putting forward political demands for the fight to free Palestine.

“We are extremely grateful to have the exceptionally talented Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and so many other top quality musicians for a night of music and solidarity. This is sure to be a great gig for an even better cause.”

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin

Ó Ceannabháin made headlines recently as he used his speech at RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards to deliver a passionate speech about Gaza: “If this can happen before the eyes of the world, as the world screams for it to stop, we can’t say that we live in any kind of freedom or democracy.”

Quoting Rosa Luxemburg, Ó Ceannabháin said: “‘Those who do not move do not notice their chains.’ People are moving all over the world now and rattling their chains in unprecedented numbers. Now is the time to get organised, break those chains and free Palestine.”

Doors for the Gig for Gaza are 8pm on Saturday April 27, tickets from tinyurl.com/4d4vf9fa