2019 Programme Announcement

Inspired by the creative energy of the Northwest, Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is an eight day cultural adventure, featuring a diverse programme of events to ignite the imagination.

At the heart of the programme lies a varied music strand featuring unique collaborations in special locations. Highlights include Meascan:  Music Across Cultures a new cross-cultural collaborative work featuring Claudia Schwab (fiddle, drone vocals), Cathy Jordan (vocals and percussion), Irene Buckley (electronics, vocal), Raphael Decoster (accordion and visuals), Bodek Janke (percussion) and Soof Nikritin (bass).

Two of Ireland’s most distinctive folk voices Lisa O’Neill and Seamus Fogarty will join forces for a double bill promising an evening of rich and compelling original music, as well as a rare chance to see Nina Hynes in the intimate surrounds of Calry Church.

Linking the rhythm of music and water, the beautiful sounds of Tomorrows and Inni-K will both feature as part of the Songs by the Sea programme, a series of intimate concerts in seaside cafés in Sligo; whilst two hugely original acts Farah Elle & KaleidSlam will host a very special night aboard the Rose of Inisfree boat on Sligo’s Lough Gill.

Keeping the sounds going well into the night, there will also be DJ sets with Donal Dineen, Kelly-Anne Byrne and Fish Go Deep amongst others.

New to the Festival, this year sees a powerful literary strand, featuring the first ever Irish event with genre-busting Maggie Nelson, as well as talks and workshops with acclaimed essayist Sinéad Gleeson. Vagabond Verses presents an afternoon of pop-up poetry and performance in venues throughout Sligo town featuring writers and performers including Tess GallagherAlice LyonsAlice Kinsella and more

Throughout the festival, audiences are encouraged to explore Cairde Visual, Cairde Sligo Arts Festival’s sixth annual open submission exhibition in partnership with The Model. This dynamic show features work from both Irish and international artists across a broad range of media.  The winner of the Hamilton Gallery Award at Cairde Visual 2018, Tina Brooks, will also show her solo exhibition, Tidal, throughout the Festival.

The highlight of the theatre programme will be the premiere of Uprooted by Brokentalkers. Developed and performed by a culturally diverse group of community performers living in Sligo, and based on their personal experiences, the darkly comic Uprooted explores the experience of new communities via a competition to decide who is acceptable.

Bru Theatre will present Cleite, a piece of mask theatre inspired by the Claddagh in the West of Ireland, and there will be comedy with John Colleary (The Savage EyeIrish Pictorial Weekly) and Julie Jay (who most recently supported Tommy Tiernan).

Featuring events for young inquisitive minds, the programme includes street circus from the Fanzini Brothers;  children’s theatre shows including Lithuanian Dansema Dance Theatre’s Twinkles – a magical dance show for the very young; the Young Curators Programme season of workshops and events, and the ever popular Park Fest: Cairde Sligo Arts Festival’s BIG Family day out featuring music, theatre, circus; art & craft workshops & delicious food.

Tickets available online or on 071 9161518

View full event listings here or browse the festival event guide below 👇

For more information on Cairde SAF see @CairdeFestival on Twitter and Instagram, or follow @CairdeSligoArtsFestival on Facebook

Follow #SligoArtsFestival on social for more.

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival would like to thank its funders, sponsors and supporters including The Arts Council, Sligo County Council, Sligo BID, Sligo Leader and more.

Bag a Bargain for your Annual Arts Festival

Tuesday, May 14 – The Glasshouse Hotel, 8PM (with viewing from 7.30PM)

Each year Cairde Sligo Arts Festival holds The Big Auction – a fundraising auction, which raises essential funds towards making the festival happen. This always proves to be a great night out with amazing donations, unbelievable bargains and a lot of fun along the way with our auctioneer Niall Canning.

Some of the items for this year’s auction include:

  • A one week stay in an Airbnb in Alicante.
  • A range of incredible artworks by Kate MacDonagh, Michael Wann, Cormac O’Leary, Heidi Wickham, Donal Adams, Emma Stroude, Barra Cassidy, Leonora Neary, and Marilin North.
  • Jewellery and accessories from Cat & The Moon, and Cait & I.
  • Vouchers for Cafés & restaurants.
  • A stay at The Old Rectory Country House.
  • Driving, sailing, screen printing, and beginners Bodhran lessons.
  • A wonderful range of holistic treatments.
  • A myriad of indoor and outdoor activities.
  • Festival and concert tickets.

And much more!

View list of confirmed auction items here with many more items being added daily. Final Catalogue will be posted on Tuesday 🙂

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is set to return from July 6th to 13th 2019. The week-long event returns to host a stellar lineup of Irish and international musicians, artists and performers in a range of unique and surprising venues and locations across County Sligo.

Speaking ahead of the auction Festival Director Tara McGowan says “We are always blown away by the level of support shown to the festival by local business and individuals. The festival is still run on a voluntary basis; we receive funding from The Arts Council and Sligo County Council but without the fundraising efforts of our committee and the incredible support from local people, the festival could not go ahead.

The Big Auction is always a fun night out and people go home happy, having ‘bagged a bargain’ for themselves whilst supporting the local arts festival –  it’s Win-Win! Niall Canning is our auctioneer and he will bring a great deal of humour to proceedings.”

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival wishes to take this opportunity to thank all of those who donated so generously to this year’s auction.

For more info or to donate please contact Tara McGowan on 0872214079 or

First Line-up announcements

Maggie Nelson, Lisa O’Neill & Seamus Fogerty, Craig Ogden and a New Work From Brokentalkers Confirmed For Cairde Sligo Arts Festival

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival (SAF) is set to return this July, with an extended programme of Irish and international writers, musicians, artists and performers. 

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival, 6 – 13 July 2019

Acclaimed author of The Argonauts, American genre-busting writer Maggie Nelson will be making her first ever Irish appearance at the festival, in an event that is sure to be a festival highlight.

Nelson is an award winning poet, critic, scholar and non-fiction writer. Her work forges a new mode of nonfiction that transcends the divide between the personal and the intellectual and renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day lived experience. She is the author of nine books, including the National Book Critics Circle Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Argonauts (2015). Maggie Nelson will appear at Cáirde in conversation with Irish author Sinéad Gleeson at the Hawk’s Well Theatre on July 10th.

As ever, music will be a strong core at Cairde SAF, from a sublime double bill featuring two of the most distinctive voices in Irish folk: Lisa O’Neill and Seamus Fogarty; to  celebrated Australian classical guitarist Craig Ogden performing in the beautiful surrounds of the Factory Performance Space.

Cairde SAF has this year collaborated with Brokentalkers in association with Hawk’s Well Theatre on a new work Uprooted. Developed and performed by a culturally diverse group of community performers living in Sligo, and based on their personal experiences, Uprooted explores the experiences of new communities in Ireland. The piece explores in a darkly comic way the notion of acceptability and how newcomers to Ireland can experience varying degrees of acceptance depending on where they have come from and how they assimilate to a new culture by abandoning their own.

Brokentalkers is “one of Ireland’s most fearless and path-breaking theatre companies”. They devise original, accessible live performance using collaborative processes that draw on the skills and experiences of contributors. They collaborate with communities to produce works of artistic excellence as well as providing quality arts experiences for participants.

Tickets available online or on 071 9161518

For more information on Cairde SAF see @CairdeFestival on Twitter, or follow @CairdeSligoArtsFestival on Facebook

The Great Big Clothes Swap

Following on from the success of last year’s event we invite you to join us for another instalment of the Great Big Clothes Swap! The clothes swap will help to raise valuable funds for this year’s arts festival. 

Clothes swapping is the perfect way to cost-effectively revamp your wardrobe whilst helping to reduce some of the millions of euro worth of clothing going into landfill every year.

How it works:
1. Clear out your wardrobe and bag as many pre-loved, washed and clean items of clothing, shoes, and accessories as you like (no underwear please)
2. Drop to Cait & I on 35 Market Cross (opposite the Lady Erin statue) any day before March 30th or bring long on the day.
3. €10 entry on the door from 2pm – fill your bag with up to ten items! (Vouchers for further items also available)
*If you don’t have items to donate, you are still welcome to attend the swap. We hope to see you there!

The Sky is the Limit for Cairde Sligo Arts Festival in 2019

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is set to return from July 6th to 13th 2019. Following on from a sun-drenched crowd-filled festival in 2018, the week-long event returns to host a stellar lineup of Irish and international musicians, artists and performers in a range of unique and surprising venues and locations across County Sligo. 

Commenting on this year’s Festival, event director Tara McGowan said: “The Festival has been on an exciting trajectory in recent years; we are delighted to welcome new funding from the Arts Council of Ireland’s ‘Arts Grant Fund’ which will allow us to bring ground breaking Irish and international artists together for exciting and new collaborative work. On top of this good news, funding through the Arts Council’s Festival and Event programme has been practically doubled for 2019. This will help us greatly with the further expansion of the arts festival, bringing more Irish and international acts to Sligo, as well as expanding our audiences, and attracting international visitors to the region. 

An unmissable week of culture, family-friendly events, visual art and street-theatre will launch with Park Fest, the annual day-long event in Sligo’s Peace Park. Songs By the Sea, intimate gigs in some of Sligo’s most loved sea-side cafes will return, as will Cairde Visual, the open submission visual art exhibition in conjunction with The Model. Cairde SAF collaborates with Brokentalkers and the Hawk’s Well Theatre on new work for theatre and the music programme will be launched with an exciting new collaboration featuring Claudia Schwab, Cathy Jordan and Irene Buckley with international musicians Bodek Janke, Raphael Decoster and Soof Nikritin.

Headline acts and the full programme will be announced shortly.

For further details, see 

Celebrating 250 Years of Circus

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival are inviting you to run away and join the circus!

2018 marks 250 years since the first ever circus was invented by Philip Astley in 1768. Now in its tenth year, the Festival is delighted to announce a major new addition to the Festival in 2018; a Big Top tent has moved into Stephens Street Carpark, with a specially selected programme of events from today Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th July.

The Big top will be filled with circus, street theatre and cabaret performances; with Tumble Circus and the legendary Britain’s Got Talent Semi-finalists Lords of Strut, clowning and circus workshops for children, and a night of comedy with Karl Spain, Danny O’Brien, Eve Darcy, and Ger Staunten.

Forget what you think Irish circus is, and give you and your family one incredible hour of extraordinary feats of circus skills at the Big Top at Tumble Circus Unsuitable on either Friday, July 13 at 6 pm or Saturday 14 at 3 pm. The award-winning Tumble Circus is much more than your average high-wire act, mixing breathtaking spectacle with theatre and comedy. Laugh, be enlightened and entertained by a cast of five internationally renowned circus artists – acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and clowns. Tickets cost €12 for adults €6 for children and €30 for a family of four. Buy Tickets

Circus workshop fun for children take place on both Friday, July 13 (SOLD OUT) and Saturday 14 (LIMITED PLACES), from 11.30 am to 1 pm, these workshops will cover an introduction to circus skills including juggling, balance, diabolo, trapeze, clowning, slack rope and acrobatics. Ticket cost €8 for children aged 8 to 12. Buy Tickets

Enjoy a Friday night comedy club at The Big Top on July 13 with Karl Spain, Danny O’Brien, Eve Darcy and Ger Staunton taking to the stage from 9pm. Tickets for Comedy at The Big Top cost €14. Recommended Age is 16+. Buy Tickets

And finally, on closing night see Lords of Strut as you have always wanted, FULL craic… smashing out the freakiest funniest routines and sexiest routines that these high fashion dancing legends can manage through their endless melodrama. No one does absurd dancing soap operas better than the LORDS OF STRUT! Laughs come fast and hard as the boys leap around in less clothing than a naturalist at a bongo party and generally unleash a full dose of madness. Lords of Strut Release the Freak, Saturday, July 14, 8 pm at The Big Top. Tickets: €14 (For ages 16+) Buy Tickets

And that’s just some of the great events still to come at Cairde Sligo Arts Festival. Full line-up here

Music Highlights for 2018 

Cairde Sligo Arts Festival will kick off on Saturday, July 7 with a free party – Disco É Cultura – a blend of music and cultures from Latin America, East Africa and the Caribbean islands. Over the week that follows, Cairde has a fantastic line up of Irish and global acts performing in venues throughout Sligo.

An Tara – the unique duo of Matthew Noone & Tommy Hayes will perform a special Trad at Lunch gig at the Hawks Well. Niwel Tsumbu and Éamonn Cagney whose sources range from classical to Central Africa, with pulsating rhythms, wild guitar solos and so much more play Tricky McGarrigles.

Jerry Creedon & Friends and Manus Noble will fill Calry Church with a fascinating mix of the classical and the modern, in a programme ranging from the cool jazz of Thelonius Monk to the Tango sensations of Astor Piazzolla.

Flook weave and spin traditionally rooted tunes into a breathtaking sound. The flutes of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly blend a rare blend of fiery technical brilliance, delicate ensemble interaction and a bold, adventurous musical imagination.


New Jackson – the new project from the ever-prolific Dubliner David Kitt –  plays nocturnal house jams with a ghostly disco tint at Tricky’s McGarrigles. Recently named by the Irish Times as one of their 50 people to watch in 2018 and voted best newcomer at Electric Picnic 2017, Katie Laffan will close the Festival on Saturday 14th.

These are just some of the music acts playing at Cairde Sligo Arts Festival, full line-up here

Welcome to Cairde Sligo Arts Festival 2018

Welcome to our new-look Cairde Sligo Arts Festival – our eight-day cultural adventure set amidst the backdrop of the stunning Wild Atlantic Way. We invite you to join us for a feast of eclectic events and happenings taking place right across Sligo town and county for this year’s Festival.

Now in its tenth year, Cairde Sligo Arts Festival has been on a journey since its inception in 2008. Since then, we have been steadily growing the Festival each year; adding new strands of work, collaborating with a great number of artist and arts organisations, building support and gaining many friends, and creating many great memories along the way.

Supported by a loyal and experienced voluntary team, the Festival is taking great leaps in 2018 with enhanced programming and engagement with artists, new venues and locations, and wider promotion and publicity.

As part of an ambitious three-year development, 2018 sees a major re-brand and visual identity for the Festival which rolls out this summer.

Inspired by the creative energy of Ireland’s Northwest, today’s Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is a unique coming together of artists and audiences.

It is a celebration of imagination, and shared experience, that welcomes all.

This is your invitation to imagination – come join us!

Tara McGowan
Festival Director 

Big Top Developments for Cairde SAF

Excitement is building for this year’s Cairde Sligo Arts Festival.

Now in its tenth year, the Festival is set to embark on an ambitious three-year strategy which will see major growth across programming, promotion and production.

We are delighted to announce a major new addition to the Festival in 2018; a Big Top tent will move into Stephens Street Carpark for the Festival weekend, with a specially selected programme of events throughout the day and night. 







The Line-up for The BIG Top is as follows:

Thursday July 12

Friday July 13

Saturday July 14


Family Fun Day for Park Fest Line-up

Sligo’s annual giant garden party – Park Fest – is, without doubt, one of the most anticipated highlights of the Cairde Sligo Arts Festival each year.

Taking place on Sunday July 8th from 12 noon to 6pm, Park Fest is a day-long free celebration for all the family in the beautiful surrounds of the walled garden of Sligo’s Peace Park featuring music, theatre, circus, art, craft and science workshops, along with global food stalls to keep bellies full all day long.

Park Fest kicks off at 12 noon with a family yoga session with Louise Waters – what better way to gear up for a day filled with performances by circus and street theatre artist Nakupelle, Irish percussion group Maracatu Ilha Brilhante, and walk-about performance by Cillian Rogers of the Workhouse Studios.

At 3pm, Nakupelle will keep audiences spellbound with his brilliantly funny and physical performance of The Trap; described as ‘ slapstick in the very best tradition of Charlie Chaplin & Buster Keaton’ ‘Innovation, Imagination and Improvisation at its best!’.

Throughout the day families can enjoy mind-boggling magic by multi-award winning entertainer and magician Joel M; storytelling sessions by Wayne O’Connor; science experiments with Yvonne Lang.

Sligo Global Kitchen, winners of this year’s Irish Food Writers’ Guild Community Award will be running the intercultural café as part of Hands Across the World, a pop-up hub that celebrates intercultural food and performance. When in need of a break, drop into the intercultural café for a feast of food and some much-needed r and r!

This year’s line-up of Park Fest music includes performances by Sligo Gospel Choir, Moonstone, Well Dressed Hobos, Sarah Crummy, Sligo Youth Jazz Quartet and more. Bring a picnic blanket to Sligo’s Peace Park on Sunday July 8th and prepare for a feast of good food and entertainment.

Park Fest at Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is an amazing and fun day out for people of all ages.

In addition to the massive free family outdoor event the Cairde Kids programme includes a family concert with Moxie, One World Kid’s Disco with Will Softly, and family performances by Tumble Circus and Lu Lu the Clown. Also, Myth and Magic with Wayne O’Connor, Storytelling with with Imelda Ní Ríain, and a Pop up Family Sing-along with Dave Flynn, RTE Choir of Ages!

More details on the Cairde Kids programme will be released very soon, but sure to be a festival highlight is Me & My Bee – an engaging and comic show with a serious message about saving the bees. Multi award-winning theatre company, This Egg, invites you to save the world – one bee at a time.  A new comedy for children and adults alike. Plant the seed for change, join the Bee Party at 2pm Tuesday July 10th at the Factory Performance Place. Tickets available here

Save the dates! Cairde Sligo Arts Festival takes place from Sat 7th July to Sat 14th July 2018.