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Open House Announces Programme for August Walled Garden Festival

Picture of beautiful, colourful flowers and grasses

Date: Thursday 20 May 2021 

Open House Festival has announced its initial line-up for the 2021 August festival in Bangor, with three weeks of music, comedy, spoken word and classic cinema in the beautiful surroundings of Bangor Castle Walled Garden.

While it will look a lot different to the trademark 140+ events in 40-odd venues festival that audiences have come to associate with Bangor in August, the Open House team are delighted to be back delivering live events once again. All events will be open air, fully seated and Covid-compliant, and there’ll be no need to worry about the weather as audiences will be protected under a stretch canvas cover.

Headline acts include internationally acclaimed Irish musician, Mary Coughlan, comedian, former doctor and author of the bestselling memoir This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay, and bestselling Irish author, Marian Keyes. However, the bulk of performers and artists come from Northern Ireland, with comedians Shane Todd and Paddy Raff, and musicians Duke Special and Dana Masters featured in the programme.

“If there is one thing the past year has taught us, it’s to appreciate what we have on our own doorsteps,” says Festival Director Kieran Gilmore. “We have all been very active in supporting our local shops, businesses and restaurants, and we believe that ethos should include the championing of local artists and performers.”

These past fourteen months have been a challenging time for the arts sector, and while there is still uncertainty around future restrictions for live events, the team has taken a leap of faith.

“Organising this year’s festival has been extremely difficult, and we have been working blind to a large degree,” says Kieran. “Obviously, the situation has affected every element of our planning – from audience numbers, to staging, to ticket prices, but our team has worked tirelessly to create a safe space and deliver a dynamic programme of events. We firmly believe people will be so happy to be back at live events that they will work with us to ensure we deliver them safely, and within the law.” 

The Walled Garden is just a short walk from Bangor station and the town centre, and with free parking, toilets, and a café, it makes the perfect location for this year’s festival, given all the constraints. “It’s one of our favourite venues anyway,” says Kieran. “We love it, and our audiences do too.”

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to see Open House launch their August festival.  Despite the huge challenges presented in programming a festival due to the ongoing pandemic, the team at Open House has curated an impressive programme that truly celebrates Northern Irish talent.  As the arts sector slowly and safely reopens, it’s heartening to see live events return for audiences to enjoy.  Congratulations to all.”

Meanwhile, The Chief Executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Stephen Reid, said: “I am delighted that organisers have managed to secure a superb line-up of live events for this year’s Open House Festival. The Festival always attracts an exciting mix of artists to the Borough and our beautiful Bangor Castle Walled Garden will provide a perfect open-air location where everyone can remain socially distanced under a protective weatherproof covering. The Festival is one of the highlights of our local arts calendar and it will give everyone something to look forward to this August.”

The familiar Open House Festival printed programme won’t be making an appearance this year, so the organisers are encouraging people to follow updates and announcements via email, social media and the festival website – and to spread the word to friends and family who aren’t online, so they don’t miss out. There’s a new official festival bookseller this year too, with Belfast’s independent book shop No Alibis offering a 10% discount on all books featured in the programme. Books can be bought online or in person at the Botanic Avenue shop. 

The ticketing system will also be different to allow for social distancing. 

“Ticketing has probably posed the biggest challenge for us,” says Kieran. “We need to ensure we can seat the maximum number of people in a socially distanced setting and have created a bubble system. It isn’t at all what audiences will be used to, but we would ask for their patience and co-operation – and as capacity is dramatically reduced, we advise people to book early to avoid disappointment.”

Additional dates, events and even locations may be added to the programme over the coming months, if restrictions allow. 

You can see the full festival line-up now at The Open House Festival website and tickets will go on sale on Thursday 27th May at 10am