Belfast’s Winter TradFest Line-up & Dates Confirmed, February 24th – 26th

By Conor O’Neill

The winter sun is sure to shine on local traditional music fans this month as the 2nd Winter Tradfest kicks off with gigs, workshops, walks and talks set to take place in Belfast.

Internationally recognised artists including Déanta, The Friel Sisters (pictured below), Ríoghnach Connolly, Seamus O’Kane, Niall Hanna, Cúíg, Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta, Tim Edey and Ryan Molloy will headline nine concerts.

Founder member of Dé Dannan and fiddle maestro Frankie Gavin will play the festival’s closing concert in The Empire Music Hall on a double bill with Armagh native but now Manchester based Flautist Ríoghnach Connolly of The Afro Celt Sound System.

The festival is also hosting its inaugural Highland Piping Solo Competition at The Deer’s Head on Sunday, February 26th. A selection of Ireland’s top pipers will compete for a place in the renowned MacCrimmon Trophy Competition 2023 that takes place annually at The Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany.

*Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta*

The new Ulster University building on York Street will host workshops covering all instruments from bodhrán to bouzouki and small pipes to singing, delivered by some of the best traditional musicians from Ireland, Scotland and beyond. Beginners can also join in with classes in Sean Nós Singing (unaccompanied singing in Irish), whistle, and sing (ages from 5 plus), Séan Nós Dancing with Irish American Siobhán Butler and set dancing with Ulster’s own Mary Fox.

Join the lively Titanic Distillers’ Session Trail which will take you across the ccityy to some of Belfast’s oldest and best-loved pubs including Madden’s Bar, The Duke of York, The John Hewitt, The Sun Flower and The Garrick. Sessions are free, and times are staggered, so that traditional music fans can fit as much ‘ceal agus craic’ (music and fun) in as possible.

The festival’s afternoon events will include launches at Radió Fáilte by legendary Fermanagh purveyor of song Gabriel McArdle and up-and-coming stars Martha Guiney and Piaras Ó Lorcáin, plus talks at Ulster University by renowned bodhrán player Mel Mercier and County Clare concertina maestro Mary MacNamara.

Walking tours include Belfast City of Song led by traditonal folk-singer Maurice Leyden and Jane Cassidy on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th. The Singing-walking tour draws on Maurice’s acclaimed song collection to tell the story of Belfast as it grows from a small town to an industrial city.


Artistic Director of Belfast Tradfest, Dónal O’Connor said: “Traditional music is part of the fabric of this town and in recent years it has become recognised as one of the main attractions for visitors to this part of the world. It’s important that we support the ecosystem of musicians and music here in Belfast. This is a great opportunity to make new friends and meet up with old acquaintances. Everyone is welcome to this rich, cultural event.”

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