Festivals & Events

Laois Arts Office organises  a number of Events and Festivals during the year including

Bealtaine Festival   Welcome to Age & Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival –

Ireland’s national celebration of the arts and creativity as we age.

This year Laois had a packed programme of events that included the  launch of “Doorways of Stradbally” by the Stradbally Active Age Group on Saturday 6th May  by Anna May McHugh, Managing Director of the National Ploughing Association of Ireland.  Free art workshops hosted by artist Saidhbhín Gibson at the Laois Arthouse, on Tuesday 9th May and on Saturday 20th May to celebrate National Drawing Day. A wide selection of music, dance, theatre and literature was also included in the programme with a  western themed Hoe Down on Wednesday 3rd May in the Parish Centre, Portlaoise, organised by the Portlaoise Active Age Group. A performance by Con Spirito a Portlaoise based ensemble with Siobhan Bergin Corri, Violin, Eileen Hearn, Violin, Mary White, Clarinet and Ann Pike, Flute in Abbeyleix Hospital and performances by Tandem a music duet from the showband era for residents of Abbeyleix and Mountmellick Hospitals.

On Wednesday  17th May,  at the Parish Centre, Portlaoise from 11am-12, the Sing for Joy Choir performed from their repertoire of joyful songs to welcome the summer.   There was also Bingo, music, song and dance in St Canices Hall, Borris-in-Ossory,  on Sat 20th May  and a ceili organised by Maureen Culleton in Ballyfin Community Centre on  Sunday 21st  May.  A Rambling House Session, and Line Dancing sessions  at An Sean Chistin in Ballyfin and a dance for fun event in St Canices Hall, Borris-in-Ossary. Residents, out-patients and staff  of  St Vincents Hospital, Mountmellick also enjoyed the entertainment provided by “Lonrach” a contemporary Trad Group,  under the directorship of Siobhan Buckley as they showcased their wonderful talents in music song and dance.

The Dunamaise Arts Centre had a host of wonderful events, highlights included:  performances by The Henry Girls on Saturday 4th May, and local drama group Fourth Wall Theatre Group presented Big Maggie.

Laois Libraries also provided  a rich array of events free of charge in libraries throughout the county including: Intergenerational Colouring, Colouring for Adults, Book Clubs, Adult Drawing classes , Makeup Demonstration, Knitting groups, Ciorcal Comhra, Classic Film Club, Local History Group, Adult writers group, Yoga Demonstration and Talk/Workshops.  Lifestyle events included Fitsticks walking workshops and Go for Life activity day in St Marys Sports Hall, Portlaoise organised by Laois Sports Partnership.


The 2017 Laois Bealtaine Festival came to a close on Wednesday 31st May with a wonderful  afternoon of music, song and the spoken word for the Open Mic Competition at the Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise.  The Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council gave a welcome address wishing everyone the best and thanking everyone involved in the success of the month long Bealtaine Festival in Laois.  Director of Services Donal Brennan also spoke and gave his own impromptu performance of a very poignant poem in Irish as a tribute to victims of the recent Manchester Tragedy.


The Open Mic competition included performers from around the county including Rathdowney, Mountrath, and Portlaoise, as well as a lady who travelled from Dublin to take part.  The high standard of each of the performances was remarked on by the judges and it was a very hard task to select the winners in the categories of Singing, Poetry and Prose.  The adjudicators were Frances Harney and Mary Wisely.

MC for the afternoon Seamus O’Brien introduced each competitor and did a wonderful job of putting everyone at their ease before their performance.  A lovely array of prizes kindly sponsored by O’Loughlins Hotel, Nook & Cranny, Mulhall’s Supervalu, Portlaoise, Tynans Restaurant at the Storeyard, All Books Ltd, Easons Bookstore and The Dunamaise Arts Centre were presented to the winners in each of the three categories as follows:


1 Arthur Broomfield, Ballyfin Co Laois

2 John McAuliffe,  Newpark Portlaoise

3 Christine Broe,  Rathgar Dublin 6



1 Sheelagh Coyle, Mountmellick

2 Joy Hewitt, Mountrath

3 Mary Carmody, Portlaoise



1 Margaret Creagh Nelson, Rathdowney

2 Freda Collier, Portlaoise

3 Jim Bonham, Mountmellick


Thanks to the Manager and Staff of the Dunamaise Arts Centre and the community groups and individuals throughout the county who took part in the Laois Bealtaine Festival 2017 and made it such a success. For more infor or if you have any ideas or suggestions for inclusion in 2018 programme please contact;  T:  057 8664033 E:  artsoff@laoiscoco.ie.





Culture Night in Laois 2017

A treat for the Laois people as Culture Night takes place on Friday 22nd of September. download the programme here
Culture Night 2017 will take place across the county with 16 locations confirmed to host a range of events from dancing to art exhibitions, poetry and storytelling to traditional music sessions. With such a wide variety of events it is sure to be a great night to bring along the whole family as there is something to suit all ages. Laois Culture Night are delighted that Lucy Deegan from Lugacurran will be the inaugural Laois Culture Night Ambassador. Lucy, who is 17 years old was the overall winner of this year’s Texaco Art Competition for her painting entitled “Tom-Summer”. As part of her prizewinning package, 17-years old Lucy from Luggacurran received a top prize of €1,500 plus an invitation to visit Tokyo awarded by the International Foundation for Arts and Culture where she was an honoured guest at a ceremony held in conjunction with the 18th International High School Arts Festival in which her winning artwork was exhibited.
Portlaoise will host six events in total, with the Music Generation Laois Samba Drum Spectacle kicking off proceedings at the Plaza in County Hall at 5pm , Peter Crann will be directing the event with a performance from a professional Samba Drum band the “Itchy Feet Drummers” from Samboeire Community Samba band, Sligo who will be joined by members of the Music Generation Laois Samba programme and children from Holy Family Primary School who will have participated in a series of drumming workshops prior to the event. Bear in mind that this event is outdoors and it is advised you bring your jacket and brolly.
Another highlight event is Anam-Siamsa Tíre performance in the Dunamaise Theatre at 8pm. The group are comprised of four male step dancers of different styles and three musicians, and are described as an energetic act that merges the essential dance spirit with a new form of creative energy which results in a true spectacle.
Equinox:Live Art will include different forms of art including dance, painting, poetry and much more. That event will take place upstairs in Kavanagh’s , Portlaoise at 9pm and it is an over 18s event. Other events to note are Bennie Reilly’s New Works exhibition in the Dunamaise Arts Centre Gallery at 7pm, Exploring Cultural Connections in the Portlaoise Parish Centre between 6-8pm. Earlier in the day, an event will take place in the Library where renowned storyteller Jack Lynch will spread his creative mind upon local school children and that kicks off at 11am.
Stradbally Arthouse Gallery will be open to the public from 6pm -8pm on Culture night to show a special exhibition titled Time and Space’ a Celebration of Texaco Children’s Art Success in Laois. Curated by Lucy Deegan the exhibition will feature Lucy’s winning entry, “Tom-Summer” and other works by this young artist. Also on show will be work by young Laois artists who featured highly in this years’ competition including: Ciarán Leonard (age 13), Asma Zulfiqar (age 14), and Abdul Ahad Zulfiqar (age 6). Rathineska Comhaltas group will host a traditional music evening at, Dromín Nursing Home, Stradbally for residents and their family and friends.
Ballyfin will be busy on the night as Artist Kevin McCann will host an Art Studio Open Night in Glory Glory, Old Dear Park at 5pm where he will talk about the ideas behind his pieces of work on display. A Cultural Evening will be held in An Sean-Chistin , Ballyfin, at 8pm where there will be a variety of music, dancing and poetry.
Durrow Library will host a Reading and Crafting evening where author Helena Duggan will be reading from her novel ‘A Place called Perfect’. She will also run some book based crafting and it all begins at 7pm. While Emo Court will be opened up for the evening where two guided tours will take place at 6pm and 7pm. There will also be an exhibition called ‘Through the eyes of Father Browne’ where his life and photographs will be on showcase.
Mountrath too will be lively as a Tour of Roundwood House will commence at 5pm as guests will be treated to an insight to one of Irelands finest Georgian country houses. Figure2Ground studios will be running an Artists Open Studio event in Murrays, Left Bank House. It begins at 5pm and runs up to 10pm where visitors can explore different aspects of digital art while enjoying a jazz themed evening.
‘The Secrets of Painting a Landscape in Oils’ event will be held in the Mountmellick Library Art Gallery as artist Tom Joyce will be demonstrating his techniques on the night. The event takes place between 7-9pm and is free admission but there is a strict limit of spaces so please ring ahead. Before the painting demo, award winning Laois writer Sheelagh Coyle will share stories from her life and experiences in the Mountmellick Library and it commence at 4:30pm.
Exhibition of Paintings ‘The Fight for Colour and Wonder’ by Melissa Donagher a new young artist from Portarlington will open at The French Restaurant in the French Quarter, Portarlington at 7pm , featuring a number of her recent works with a surrealist theme. Her first solo exhibition Melissa takes inspiration from the works of Salvador Dali and Frieda Kahlo and she plans to exhibit the next phase of her work in Dublin in 2018.

Portarlington Comhaltas Group will be performing in the Hawthorn Function Room, Portarlington at 8pm where musicians of all ages will take part in a show of traditional music, song and dance. Spink Comhaltas too will be holding an evening of traditional music where some of the best musicians in the country will be performing in the Spink Community Hall at 7:30pm. T
Rathdowney Men’s Shed invite all to attend an evening of music, dance, story-telling and a display of the Men’s Shed woodcraft work from 7pm.
For more information please go onto the W: www.laois.ie or www.culturenight.ie or contact the Arts Office, Laois County Council T: (057) 8664033.
Culture Night is brought to you by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Creative Ireland Programme in partnership with Laois County Council.
An Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta a dhéanann comhordú ar an Oíche Chultúir,
i gcomhpháirt le Comhairle Chontae Laoise.

Back To Top

The James Fintan Lalor School

In 2017, the School, which will be run by Laois Heritage Society with the support of Laois County Council, will take place in November. Please consult the Laois Heritage Society website for more details http://laoisheritagesociety.org/

The James Fintan Lalor Autumn School entitled “1916, Looking Back, Looking Forward”, took place on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October in the Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise. It was a weekend of drama, music, debates and political discussion inspired by the writings of James Fintan Lalor. As the programme of commemoration for the 1916 Centenary draws to a close, this year’s school reflected on the year’s activities. An exhibition curated by Brendon Deacy entitled “Unfettered Man of Letters” of memorabilia linking James Fintan Lalor and 1916, was on display in the foyer of the Dunamaise Arts Centre, from 16thSeptember and throughout the weekend of the James Fintan Lalor Autumn School.
Back To Top

Sean Rocks( R.T.E.) M.C. with Crime Writers-Niamh O’Connor, Thomas Enger, Andrea Carter and Louise Philips on stage for the Crime Fiction Night at Dunamaise Arts Centre

Leaves Festival
The Leaves Festival is held annually and celebrates the literary arts in Laois
Celebrating that diverse and rich talent, not only of writers but also of theatre, music and film. In 2016 the 5 day programme included a wonderful Literary & Music Evening at Roundwood House with guests Peter Fallon, Vona Groarke, Eoin McNamee and musician, Colm Mac an Iomaire.
A poetry workshop with Mary Ó Donnell and the launch of Arthur Broomfield’s new collection of poetry, “Cold Coffee at Emo Court” followed by an Open Mic Event. Another highlight included a Crime Writers Night, hosted by M.C. Sean Rocks of RTÉ Radio 1, with writers Andrea Carter, Thomas Enger (Norway), Niamh O’Connor and Louise Philips and music by saxophonist Rachel Clancy.
Other events included a screening of In the Heart of the Sea which is inspired by Melville’s great novel Moby Dick and Minding Frankie an adaptation for stage of a story by the late Maeve Binchy.

Analeen Lenaerts ( harp) and Dionysis Grammenos(Clarinet) performing at the Classical Music Concert at St. Peter’s Church of Ireland

The finale event with a wonderful classical music concert featuring Anneleen Lenearts(Harp) and Dionysis Grammenos(Clarinet), two dazzling virtuosi performing in concert in Portlaoise.
Back To Top

National Drawing Day 2017
National Drawing Day is held annually in May with events planned to give the public the opportunity to engage and participate in creating art with the assistance of professional artists. Laois Arthouse, in conjunction with studio resident Saidhbhín Gibson, hosted an intergenerational workshop to encourage people to draw on Saturday 20th May at Laois Arthouse, Stradbally, Co Laois.

Saidhbhín Gibson recently completed a MFA in Sculpture at NCAD, Dublin. She employs a range of techniques in her practice including drawing, printmaking and needlepoint lace and uses various fabrication methods in her sculptural works.



Back To Top

Community Festivals
Providing support for Festivals and Community Events

One of our major festivals in Laois is the Electric Picnic – full details on their website (link below)
 electric picnic

  • Electric Picnic is an annual arts-and-music festival which has been staged since 2004 at Stradbally Hall in Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland. It is organised by Pod Concerts and Festival Republic,

For all information on community Events and Festivals throughout Laois visit the  Laois Tourism website.

The arts office welcome ideas or suggestions – just contact the office on T: 057 8664033 or email us.

Back To Top