Wales’ tourism industry anticipates a major Irish boost this June as Wales’ oldest music festival launches its 2016 season and reveals its line-up of leading classical and traditional artists with links to the country during the two-week event.
The Gregynog Festival, launched in 1933 by philanthropists Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, granddaughters of Victorian mining and railway entrepreneur David Davies, will feature concerts, drama, poetry, film, talks and exhibitions on the theme of Eire between 16 and 26 June at venues throughout Mid Wales.
It comes as the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising will be marked in Wales this summer, recalling how 1,800 Irish people who took part, including Michael Collins, were kept at the Fron-goch prison camp near Bala.
Music, drama and talks inspired by the Rising and Fron-goch feature during the festival programme as well as forming part of the Welsh Government’s project Cymru’n Cofio | Wales Remembers 1914-1918.
Leading Irish musicians and historians, plus major international artists who specialise in performing Irish repertoire, are travelling especially to Mid Wales to take part.
Jordi Savall returns to the festival with Martin Hayes, the dazzling folk fiddler from Co. Clare, while other Irish musicians include Chamber Choir Ireland, soprano Ailish Tynan, pianist Finghin Collins and harpist Siobhan Armstrong with her Irish Consort.
International visitors include Iranian harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani, French early music ensemble Nevermind and the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Croatian violinist Bojan Cicic.
“So many close cultural connections have formed between Ireland and Mid Wales over the years in terms of music, the arts and local history,” said Dr Rhian Davies, artistic director of the Gregynog Festival.
“These connections are highlighted throughout the festival programme, including the Abermule composer Peter Warlock who spent time composing in Dublin, the Irish harp pins excavated at Montgomery Castle, the 6th century Irish Saint Melangell, and the Celtic Library of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies.”
“We’re anticipating strong interest from Ireland and expect many people to visit the wider area while enjoying the range of events which we have planned, particularly with the high calibre of international artists who are performing for us,” added Dr Davies.
Festival events will be held at venues throughout Mid Wales, including Gregynog Hall, near Newtown, Powys; National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; Llandinam Village Hall; Montgomery Town Hall, Tregynon Church and Pennant Melangell Church.
A Welsh Government Visit Wales signature event, the festival attracts visitors from across the world each year to venues throughout Mid Wales, including the famous Gregynog Hall, near Newtown, Powys, home of the Davies sisters who launched the event because of their passion for music and the arts.
In addition to placing the area on the international music and arts map, the Gregynog Festival plays a part in supporting the rural economy, attracting visitors into the area and raising its profile.
Last year the festival attracted at least £150,000 of spend into the Mid Wales area as well as working with local people through an outreach programme involving musicians and artists visiting local schools, cafes and residential homes.
A substantial outreach programme is again planned and will be revealed shortly under the name Irish Coffee.
The box office for the Gregynog Festival has just opened with tickets available through www.gregynogfestival.org and 01686 207100.