Popular Cairncastle festival celebrates Ulster Scots and Bluegrass cultures

ALL aspects of Ulster-Scots culture - from the language and history to its rich musical legacy - will be explored at the annual Cairncastle festival.

The 12th annual Bluegrass and Folk Festival takes place between Tuesday, July 24 through to Sunday 29 and features such upcoming talents as Sontas, whose unique style and fusion of Ulster-Scots music, song and dance brings it bang up to date for anyone who loves culture with a twist.

Sontas, who have performed at festivals here, in Scotland and New York, will be supported by the local Grousebeaters folk band, who are themselves no strangers to the festival circuit.

Veterans of Rockabilly and traditional country music, The Jukejoint, from Lurgan, open the Bluegrass evening on Wednesday 25, along with The Down and Out Bluegrass Band from Belfast, concluding with Mullingar-based Bending The Strings, who are an International renowned traditional Bluegrass band.

Final plans are being made by Cairncastle Ulster-Scots festival committee for the six-day event in a large marquee in the village, starting with an open music session, led by Dr Gordon Ramsey, Queen’s University of Belfast, on Tuesday 24. Anyone who can play an instrument, or sing, is invited to take part.

It just wouldn’t be the Cairncastle festival without a musical tour and this year, for the first time, they are moving away from the Antrim Coast to take in Ulster Scots sites in Co Down, guided by Dr Fraser Agnew, well known Ulster Scots historian.

Festival workshops are also popular elements and this year - the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant - the main topic was obvious. On Wednesday 25 the unionist protests against Home Rule and the roles of the Ulster and Irish Divisions in the First World War, through to the Easter Rising and partition will all be explored at Cairncastle.

A second workshop on Friday 27, delivered by Gary Blair, examines the differences in the Ulster-Scots and Irish languages, followed on the Saturday by Alistair McReynolds and Wilson Scott on the subject of Bluegrass origins, while John Magill recites stories, many from poet James McCallister.

On the Friday there will Ulster Scots dancing, from 2pm, in Cairncastle Presbyterian Church hall to music by The Cutting Edge band from Dundee.

Catering will be provided on site in a marquee from 5-7pm each evening.

For more information visit www.cairncastleulsterscots.co.uk or email kacheson.692@btinternet.com.

Otherwise, phone Bobby on 07774401935 or contact the local tourist information centre for a festival leaflet.