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Return to Camden Town Festival 2011

The number 13 is thought to be unlucky, but in the case of the 13th Return to Camden Town Festival, nothing could be further from the truth. The line up of this year’s Irish traditional music and dance extravaganza in London is so strong that the answer to the question, “Who is headlining the Festival?” is debatable.

It could be Noel Hill, Tony Linnane and Alec Finn, who will be treating the London audience to some fine music from their legendary 1979 album. Perhaps it’s Brian Rooney, John Carty and Arty McGlynn, two of the London Irish music scene’s musical heroes and Ireland’s most in demand accompanist? Whilst firmly rooted in the London Irish music scene, these two fiddlers have each gained well deserved international status and they will be warmly welcomed as they launch their new CD, At Complete Ease.

The Brock McGuire Band is a strong contender. Voted “Best Instrumental Band of the Decade” by Irish American News, their latest album, Green Grass, Blue Grass,recorded in Nashville with Ricky Skaggs and released in March this year, was an instant classic. So is Lúnasa, regarded by many as Ireland’s present day supergroup, inspired by the legendary Bothy Band of the 1970s and named as “Performers of the Decade” by Lúnasa’s return to Camden Town is eagerly anticipated - they last appeared at the Festival 9 years ago.

Depends on your point of view, of course, but why waste time and energy deciding? Just hop on the bus, train, plane or whatever mode of transport gets you to the London Irish Centre, 50-52 Camden Square, LONDON NW1 9XB and soak up the fantastic entertainment on offer over the two weekends of the Festival.

The first weekend (Thursday 27th – Sunday 30th October) coincides with school half term for most boroughs across the UK and the Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, so it’s easy to fit a trip to Camden into those busy schedules. This long weekend is focused on music and song events, with four days of concerts, sessions, workshops, album launches and talks. Lúnasa headline the opening night on Thursday 27th, sharing the bill with The London Lasses and Pete Quinn, with support by Colman Connolly, Paddy Egan and Tad Sargent.

The second evening concert takes place on Friday 28th, with a real musical treat on offer. Noel Hill, Tony Linnane and Alec Finn share top billing with Shaskeen (who have recently celebrated 40 years on the road), with support by Rún. The night of Saturday 29th celebrates the launch of the new album by the great Brian Rooney, John Carty and Arty McGlynn, as they play a concert double bill alongside The Brock McGuire Band, with support by Peter McAlinden and Pete Quinn.

The daytimes of Saturday and Sunday are packed with instrumental and singing workshops, led by many of the artists who feature in the concerts (including Noel Hill, Paul Brock, Niamh Parsons, Catherine McEvoy, John Joe Kelly and more). There are afternoon concerts, too. Saturday’s concert of song features renowned ballad singer Niamh Parsons, appearing with long time musical partner, guitarist Graham Dunne, on a double bill with Derry singer, banjo and tenor guitar player Damien O’Kane, who recently released his debut solo album, Summer Hill. Damien appears with guitarist Ed Boyd and bodhrán player John Joe Kelly. Sunday’s daytime concert features artists who have released CDs recently to much critical acclaim - Catherine McEvoy (flute), Micheal (concertina) and MacDara (fiddle) O’Raghallaigh, The Raw Bar Collective (Conal O’Grada -flute, Benny McCarthy - accordion and Dave Sheridan -  fiddle), with support by the London Irish music scene’s great accordion player, Gary Connolly.

There’s more. At 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, the Festival will host free double-bill album launches, featuring Laoise Kelly and Michelle O’Brien, Luke Daniels and Junior Davey on Saturday and Mick O’Connor and Antoin MacGabhann, plus Tom McElvogue, Des Hurley and Chris O’Malley on Sunday. The first weekend will culminate in a free performance on the evening  of Sunday 30th by London’s popular Hungry Grass, playing its own brand of high energy Irish music and song.

If you fancy playing a tune yourself or just want a little less formality, there are sessions throughout the Centre and at offsite pub venues throughout the weekend. On Saturday at lunchtime there’s a chance to have an informal chat with Brian Rooney and John Carty during their Q&A session.

The dance weekend runs from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th November. It kicks off on Friday evening with a set dancing céilí by The Ivy Leaf Céilí Band, featuring John and Carmel Burke, Patsy Moloney and Eilish Commins.

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th November will feature dance workshops (in both set and sean nós dancing) with Mairéad Casey, from Co. Longford and céilís with The Abbey Céilí Band, from Co. Cork.

There will also be music and song events running alongside the dance programme on the final day of the Festival with a ‘session for all ages’ hosted by Meitheal Cheoil school of music (if your youngsters are interested in traditional music and want to find out more, why not bring them along?), a traditional singing session hosted by All Ireland champion Pat Connolly and an evening concert featuring many of the great musicians, singers and dancers from Comhaltas (the organisation which promotes Irish tradtional music and dance) in Britain.

All inclusive tickets are particularly good value at £50/40 for all concerts (27-30 Oct) and £40/30 for all dance events (4-6 Nov). Full information about the Festival is available on our website at, together with a link at which you can purchase tickets. Or come and ‘like’ the ‘Return to Camden Town Events’ page on facebook. We hope to see you there.

Permalink - Posted: October 4, 2011 at 9:14 am