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Reaching new musical heights at the Earagail Arts

TALENTED: Eve Belle singing in Early’s pub in Arranmore Island on Saturday night   photo by Siobhan Cox TALENTED: Eve Belle singing in Early’s pub in Arranmore Island on Saturday night photo by Siobhan Cox
By Anthony Neeson

THE Earagail Arts Festival runs every July and brings a wealth of talent to Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.
The festival has been running this year from July 10 and will wrap up its calendar of events for another year on Sunday, July 28. With Belfast’s love affair with Donegal well established, what was once a well-kept secret among the country’s festival-goers is now well and truly on the radar for Belfast music and arts lovers and this year they have been spoiled for choice.
At the weekend the festival moved to Arranmore Island for what was billed as the Mór Music & Arts Trail – two days of music, comedy and the spoken word.
Crossing over on the Blue Ferry from Burtonport at lunchtime on Saturday passengers were already getting in the mood for the weekend ahead. It was only later that we realised some of them were the artists who would grace the stage later in the day.
Proceedings soon got under way amid the intimate surroundings of Neily’s pub. This is one of the attractions of the Earagail Arts Festival: organisers bring together some of the most talented musicians and artists from around the country and put them before an audience in an accessible setting. Saturday afternoon did not disappoint, with the talented Oscar Jennings – just turned 16 that day – who, with a mature acoustic set, belied his tender years. The young singer-songwriter had Neily’s in the palm of his hand. Look out for his distinct voice in the years ahead.
Conor Mason – also from Derry – and Leila Jane followed, and again their acts were faultless. Switching from guitar to keyboard, Mason’s voice is melodic and haunting, his love songs touching the soul. Singer-songwriter, 23-year-old Leila Jane from Donegal, once more exemplified the depth of talent in the Irish music scene with hints of Janis Joplin and Patsy Cline hovering above her blues six string.
The night was but a pup and we moved on to Early’s pub. Ahead of us – if we could stick the pace – was Eve Belle, Delta Fuse and Accidents in the Workplace. A self-proclaimed “singer of sad bops” Eve Belle took us on a journey through the consequences of life. A woman of immense song-writing talent, she’s another one to check out. The evening was brought to a crescendo with blues rock four-piece Delta Fuse from Derry – boy, there’s some talent in Derry these days – and funkmeisters Accidents in the Workplace from Dundalk.
After lunch it all began again on the Sunday with more music, this time at The Crossroads. We arrived just as the highly-rated Josie Duncan was wrapping up. However, we would catch-up with the Scots Gaelic singer back in Early’s later. Also playing at The Crossroads was Thatcher of the Acropolis with their unique blend of electronic rock and Gaelic poetry. After a trad session in Phil Ban’s – which coincided with Shane Lowry’s Open win on the big screen – the island was really rocking now, and it was soon back down to Early’s for the final evening. When Dublin poet Stephen James Smith announced from the stage that he would be reading poetry for the next 45 minutes, there was some uneasy shuffling in the seats, but we needn’t have worried, he had us laughing and crying in equal measure with his poems and stories. Incidentally, Stephen is playing in the Black Box in Belfast on October 2. Make sure you go along. I’ll be back.
Following Stephen we were treated to the haunting Gaelic sounds of Diane Cannon and Manus Lunny, followed by Clann Mhic Ruairi. Another rousing ending to another Arranmore evening was brought courtesy of the impressive Honeyfeet.
You can check out the final weekend of entertainment at the Earagail Arts Festival at
We stayed on Arranmore island at Early’s Bed & Breakfast where you will get a great welcome from Jerry and his wife Pat.
We travelled to Arranmore Island on the Blue Ferry –

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