Grey skies and showers no match for Kilkenny festival

The rain proved no deterrent to festival goers keen to soak up Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing, at Castle Yard at Kilkenny Design. The Kilkenny Arts Festival continues until August 17th.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing, at Castle Yard at Kilkenny Design. The Kilkenny Arts Festival continues until August 17th.


With flash floods and thundery downpours forecast for its opening weekend, there were plenty of anxious faces among the organisers and volunteers at the 41st Kilkenny Arts Festival.

A series of pop-up concerts had been planned for the city’s medieval garden spaces, and a nightly outdoor performance from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was at the centre of the action, so the anxiety was understandable.

Thankfully, the weather held for most of the weekend and the drama stayed where it belonged, on stage, at the festival’s concerts, exhibitions, workshops and family events.

The icing on the Kilkenny cake had to be the “secret garden” gig at the castle yesterday afternoon, when the surprise guest, trad superstar Martin Hayes, played his fiddle under the trees. We clapped. We cheered. We danced. After he finished, the heavens opened, but we were all still smiling. Art versus weather? No contest.

For sheer weirdness, it would be hard to beat the Toronto-based sculptor Max Streicher’s installation Outside In, which brings a collection of animated “clouds” into St Mary’s Hall. The building, a church that has lain derelict for many years, has been stripped ahead of a planned renovation, and to wander among Streicher’s enormous puffs of parachute silk – and even, in one case, to clamber “inside” it – was strange, but oddly comforting.

Coloured glass

There was delight for the ears as well as the eyes at Róisín de Buitléar and Karen Donnellan’s Resonance show at the National Craft Gallery. Artist de Buitléar has worked coloured glass into a series of stunning shapes which – as played by Liam Ó Maonlaí – also produce timeless, haunting sounds which are as far from the crisp “ping” of traditional crystal as you could imagine.

In the gallery next door an interactive installation encouraged visitors to make their own music, echoing the aural glitter of the wind-chime workshop in the yard outside.

Across the road, punters sought the womb-like calm of Architects of Air’s giant inflatable maze, Pentalum, with its soft electronic soundtrack and glowing coloured caverns.


The Globe Theatre’s outdoor Shakespeare has become a regular fixture at Kilkenny, and one of the festival’s most sought-after tickets. Grey skies and showers were no match for the exuberance and skill of the cast, who produced from Much Ado About Nothing more belly laughs than a double bill of Inbetweeners movies. The watchers pulled up their hoods and produced bottles of wine, flasks of soup and foil survival blankets. Everyone was enthralled. Nobody bailed out. It was really quite something.

There was plenty more to enjoy, from Richard Ryan’s controversial Hubert Butler lecture on the usefulness – or otherwise – of the United Nations, to Made in Kilkenny, a mouthwatering display of work by local craftspeople at Butler House.

President Michael D Higgins was entranced by the Handel mini-opera Acis and Galatea at St Canice’s Cathedral.

In the peaches-and-cream interior of St John’s Church of Ireland, the Heath Quartet took a packed audience from the sunlit open spaces of Beethoven’s second string quartet to the jagged clifftops of his 11th.

But the icing on the Kilkenny cake had to be the "secret garden" gig at the castle yesterday afternoon, when the surprise guest - trad superstar Martin Hayes, no less  -  played his fiddle under the trees.  We cheered.  We danced.  After he finished, the heavens finally opened; but we were all still smiling.  Art versus weather?  No contest.

Kilkenny Arts Festival continues until August 17th.

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