Nostalgia: Enduring Folk Festival has a special place in Cork hearts

The festival, which kicks off later this month, has held a place in the hearts of Cork music lovers since 1979.
Nostalgia: Enduring Folk Festival has a special place in Cork hearts

Musicians Matt Cranitch and Aidan Coffey performing at the launch of the photographic exhibition by Dragan Thomas of the 2010 Cork Folk Festival, at the Pavillion Bar, Careys Lane, Cork, included are William Hammond, Festival Director, and Photographer Dragan Thomas. Picture Denis Scannell

CORK’S long-running and renowned folk festival is back again this autumn with over 50 events taking place across four days.

The festival, which kicks off later this month, has held a place in the hearts of Cork music lovers since 1979.

It originated in The Phoenix Bar on Union Quay, now known as El Fenix, with just 14 events on the bill in that first year.

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

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the annual event.

William Hammond and Jim Walsh pictured at the Folk Festival Launch at St Peter’s Church on North Main Street.Photography By Gerard McCarthy 
William Hammond and Jim Walsh pictured at the Folk Festival Launch at St Peter’s Church on North Main Street.Photography By Gerard McCarthy 

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

In subsequent years, the organisers gradually built the festival back up and it experienced a revival.

Three years ago, Cork Folk Festival co-directors William Hammond and Jim Walsh were honoured as Cork Persons’ of the Month for August 2019.

Between them, the duo has been organising the festival on a voluntary basis for over 40 years.

Dancing on the street at the Beamish Cork Folk Festival Ceili Mor on Patricks Street in 2007. Picture; Larry Cummins 
Dancing on the street at the Beamish Cork Folk Festival Ceili Mor on Patricks Street in 2007. Picture; Larry Cummins 

Speaking at the time, awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, said the duo’s dedication to the festival “truly embodies the Corkonian spirit, and allows Cork to compete with other folk festivals and events at an international level”.

Ger Wolfe and the New Skylarks performing at An Spailpin Fanach in 2003 during the Beamish Cork Folk Festival
Ger Wolfe and the New Skylarks performing at An Spailpin Fanach in 2003 during the Beamish Cork Folk Festival

The 43rd Cork Folk Festival includes over 150 musicians from all parts of Ireland, and a few from abroad, performing in 20 venues around the city.

The festival will be a fully live folk festival, headlined by Mary Black who will be accompanied by Bill Shanley, Pat Crowley, Nick Scott, Richie Buckley, and Liam Bradley, with support from Gráinne Hunt at the Opera House on October 2.

John Nyhan (left) with Micheál and Aoife Foley singing and playing music at the food and folk event at Emmet Place during Cork Folk Festival in 2017. Picture: Denis Minihane.
John Nyhan (left) with Micheál and Aoife Foley singing and playing music at the food and folk event at Emmet Place during Cork Folk Festival in 2017. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Na Deise band DANÚ will also feature along with legendary Chieftains’ musicians Sean Keane and Matt Molloy.

The line-up of leading traditional musicians includes three duos: harpist, Máire Ní Chathasaigh with guitarist Chris Newman, concertina player Caitlín Nic Gabhann with fiddler Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and guitarist Seamie O’Dowd with piper Leonard Barry.

Other festival highlights include a celebration of Sliabh Luachra featuring Eoin Stan O’Sullivan, Emma O’Leary, Pat Fleming, Maura O’Connor, and Bryan O’ Leary at the Spailpín Fánach.

Cork Folk Festival Organiser William Hammond with American Singer/Songwriter Dana Lyons at St Finn Barre's Cathedral, Cork, in 2003, preparing for the city's folk festival. Picture: Des Barry
Cork Folk Festival Organiser William Hammond with American Singer/Songwriter Dana Lyons at St Finn Barre's Cathedral, Cork, in 2003, preparing for the city's folk festival. Picture: Des Barry

The four-day festival, running from September 29 to October 2, will also feature a céilí mór at Douglas GAA, music workshops and numerous other events.

For full programme details, or tickets, visit https://www.corkfolkfestival.com/

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