Nostalgia: Celebrating 42 years of the Cork Folk Festival 

Nostalgia: Celebrating 42 years of the Cork Folk Festival 

William Hammond Martin & Eliza Carthy, Norma Waterson. Cork Folk Festival copyright.

THE Cork Folk Festival has held a special place in the hearts of Cork music lovers since 1979.

The five-day festival which concludes tomorrow showcases the very best of Irish trad and international folk music.

Speaking ahead of the festival, co-organiser William Hammond said the festival would celebrate the music of Cork "with a strong emphasis on live music".

"We are indebted to the Cork City Council and Arts Office who grant aided the festival this year. 

"Throughout the year myself and festival chairman Jim Walsh have gone through different variations of how the festival could happen in 2021 and scrubbed plans many times as the Covid situation deteriorated. 

Seamus Creagh & William Hammond (Cork Folk Festival Co-Organiser)
Seamus Creagh & William Hammond (Cork Folk Festival Co-Organiser)

"But with the health concerns improving we have settled on a programme that will entice Cork lovers of live acoustic music," he continued.

Founded 42 years ago, the Cork Folk Festival originated in The Phoenix Bar, now known as El Fenix, with just 14 events on the bill that year.

Over the decades the festival has grown into a much larger event and has garnered local, national and international attention. 

However, it wasn't always smooth sailing for the festival.

 Joe Scurfield, Tim Dalling and Pete Challoner of the Old Rope String Band who played at the Metropole Hotel during the Cork Folk Festival in 1996. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Joe Scurfield, Tim Dalling and Pete Challoner of the Old Rope String Band who played at the Metropole Hotel during the Cork Folk Festival in 1996. Picture: Denis Minihane.

In 1988, sponsorship was pulled and the following year the festival was much smaller in scale, with about 10 acts performing. 

In the years that followed festival organisers gradually built it back up and the festival experienced a revival.

This year's festival includes both in-person and virtual events, with a range of diverse concerts in venues across the city as well as classes, and walking tours.

John Spillane pictured ahead of the Cork Folk Festival in 2007. Photo: Mark Kelleher
John Spillane pictured ahead of the Cork Folk Festival in 2007. Photo: Mark Kelleher

Today’s highlights include several music workshops via Zoom which are free to attend, a Rebels of Cork Walking Tour led by John Murphy, and Tara Breen, Padraig Rynne and Jim Murray in concert at Triskel.

The final day of the festival will kick off with a celebration of the legendary traditional singer Margaret Barry and her grandfather, piper Robert Thompson with performances from Eoin O Riabhaigh, Johnny McCarthy, Tim O’Riordan, Marty Barry and Cathal Ó Curráin in St Peters at 1pm.

This concert will feature musicians who have a connection to Margaret Barry and Robert (Bob) Thompson.

Marty Barry is Margaret Barry’s grandson and is deeply rooted in the song tradition. 

Eoin Ó Riabhaigh accompanied by Johnny MacCarthy is the custodian of the Goodman pipes, passed down to Eoin by his father, Mícheál Ó Riabhaigh. 

Eoin has also written a tune to commemorate Robert. 

Brendan Coughlan, Jim Walsh Chairman, Paul Dromey and William Hammond pictured at the launch of the Cork Folk Festival in 2005. Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Brendan Coughlan, Jim Walsh Chairman, Paul Dromey and William Hammond pictured at the launch of the Cork Folk Festival in 2005. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Tim O'Riordan, a ballad singer in the style of Margaret, has written a song for her called 'The Heart of the Song'. 

Cathal Ó Curráin also has a connection, as he is a relation of piper Turlough McSweeney who took second place in the 1897 Feis Ceoil in Dublin.

Other events tomorrow include 'Folk Fest in the Park', a free event at Fitzgerald's Park, with Seán Ó Sé, Máire Ní Chéileachair and The Abbey Céilí.

Musicians Fiona Kennedy, Anna Mitchell and Mary Greene will also perform ‘Gals at Play’ at Triskel tomorrow night.

For more information see www.corkfolkfestival.com.


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