Ards International Guitar Festival is back! After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the much-loved festival will rock into Newtownards from 7 – 10 April. Guitar fans will be delighted with the eclectic programme of guitar-inspired gigs, guitar clinics, a film screening and a stunning photography exhibition by Stuart Bailie. Established 26 years ago, the festival organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council celebrates the world’s most popular instrument, bringing together some of the best guitarists from around Ireland and the UK.
One of the highlights of this year’s programme is Jon Gomm, the UK based guitarist who combines jaw-dropping guitar playing skills and artistic soul to craft instrumental compositions that reflect ambient and progressive music that transcends global cultures. The festival is delighted to also welcome Carlow-born virtuoso Shane Hennessy back to this year’s line-up. Shane who is supporting Jon Gomm at his Queen’s Hall gig on Saturday 9 April, is known for high energy and variety at his live shows – listeners can expect anything from Bach to Beyoncé! Irish Music Magazine also referred to him as “one of the most exciting live performers of his generation”.
Sam Davidson’s Taste take to the stage in The Ivy Bar on Saturday 9 April. Fronted by Sam Davidson, one of Northern Ireland’s most revered blues/rock players, this 21st Century version of Taste offers an energetic and authentic flavour of the iconic blues/rock band from the 60’s/70’s, famously associated with the late great Rory Gallagher.
Flamenco guitar fans are in for a treat when Paddy Anderson, one of only a handful of professional flamenco guitarists in Ireland and the UK performs at Ards Arts Centre on Sunday 10 April. In this brand-new show, he invites us to experience the full range of colours and emotions of the solo flamenco guitar.
Thin Lizzy fans will love the Classic Band Brunch Wild Eyed Boys – The Thin Lizzy Story presented by Ralph McLean. Take a fascinating stroll through the history of one of the most celebrated bands of all time, featuring seldom-seen clips, some rarities and Ralph’s usual mix of musical insight and backstage gossip. Ards Arts Centre, Sunday 10 April.
Little guitar enthusiasts can look forward to Kyle Riley’s ‘No Height Restriction Tour’ event in Ards Arts Centre on Saturday 9 April. Featuring songs from his new album of original children’s music, with some traditional kids’ tunes and even some pop music thrown in, this live show will have the whole family singing and stomping.
This year’s Weekend Winddown with The Unholy Gospel Band, will finish the festival off in style at The Ivy Bar on Sunday 10 April. The Unholy Gospel Band is the first in Northern Ireland; authentic American gospel-inspired music delivered live and straight from the soul via Northern Ireland’s very first (unholy) gospel band led by its singer and founder Cormac Neeson.
Speaking about the festival, Councillor Mark Brooks, The Mayor of Ards and North Down said: “I am delighted to see the return of Ards Guitar Festival after its two-year break. It’s wonderful to see the return of concerts and live music and I would encourage people to buy some tickets and come along and enjoy the wonderful programme.”
Ards Guitar Festival Director, Emily Crawford commented: “The past two years have been an incredibly challenging time for our musicians, both locally and on an international level. Their opportunities to perform to in person audiences have been so limited that the buzz about this year’s festival is tangible. I can’t wait to welcome back our regular festival goers and new faces alike to enjoy fantastic and affordable live music.’’
Ards International Guitar Festival runs from 7 – 10 April. For ticket details or to view the full programme please visit the website www.ardsguitarfestival.co.uk or call Ards Arts Centre on 028 9181 0803