TradFest 2023 to showcase young Irish talent in ‘a celebration of who we are’

New wave of musicians joined by legend Judy Collins and actor Stephen Rea in first big music festival of the year

TradFest is one of the few festivals that illuminates the drab month of January. This year’s edition begins next week with The Great Irish Songbook, based on an album by Dervish, and runs for four days. It comes shortly after the death of Séamus Begley, a huge figure in the world of traditional Irish music who was a regular fixture at the festival.

The emphasis this year is being placed on the new generation of trad musicians. Tickets for the concerts by Persian-Irish trad group Nava, German-based Irish twins The Ocelots, singer Aoife Scott and musicians Sorcha Costello, Colm Connolly and Aisling Lyons are proving particularly popular, promoter Martin Harte said.

“They were the first concerts to sell out and that tells you there is a ravenous appetite for trad,” he said. “TradFest is an important part of their career trajectory. It’s an incredible wave of new artists, new energies, new music.”

Aoife Scott said the launch of her debut album, Carry the Day, at TradFest in 2016 helped her career. “I left my job in media to become a full-time musician and the only way I could do that was through the support of TradFest, who were giving me gigs every year.”


She will curate an event called Women of Note at St Patrick’s Cathedral on January 25th which features Mary Coughlan, North Carolina singer Charly Lowry and TG4 broadcaster Doireann Ní Ghlacáin.

“There are so many bands that are coming out and it is amazing to see. TradFest gives the opportunity to young musicians to come out and be seen by other people who wouldn’t be seen before,” Scott added.

At the other end of the age spectrum will be the evergreen American folk singer Judy Collins who, at the age of 83, has just been nominated for a Grammy award for best folk album. Spellbound is her first album of entirely original material in her career. She will perform at St Patrick’s Cathedral on January 28th with Irish singer-songwriter Blánid.

Actor Stephen Rea, the unofficial patron saint of TradFest, will read poetry at Malahide Castle in a concert with the musicians Louise and Michelle Mulcahy and Belfast composer Neil Martin. That event, on January 29th, is sold out.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin Castle, Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said TradFest is a “celebration as a nation of who we are” and also an important tourism draw for the city at a quiet time of year.

“It attracts not only domestic tourists but also international tourists, who are coming here not just to see established Irish talent, but also emerging Irish talent. That is really important about TradFest, to give them a launch pad to be seen and heard,” she said.

“The timing of this is really important as we emerge out of the Christmas season and that off-peak tourism season too.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times