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


Expressions of interest are invited from arts and culture groups and individuals interested in organising events to be included in the funding application process for culture night in September 2017.  Culture Night 2017 will take place on Friday 22nd September, offering free arts and culture events to all. A full programme of events will take place this year – more details to come.


Culture Night 2016  was a great success with a variety of events happening in the county on Friday 16th September.The highlight of the night was a Concert and Craft Fair at the Malthouse, Stradbally. Music Generation Laois, in conjunction with the Laois Arts Office, joined counties and cities across Ireland in celebrating Culture Night 2016. New Road, a traditional Irish band with Americana influences based in Sligo, with special guests Cathy Jordan (Dervish) and Leonard Podolak (The Duhks), performed in the beautiful surroundings of The Malthouse in Stradbally.

Leading up to the concert a craft fair was held in the courtyard area of the venue with an array of beautiful ceramics, pottery, art, woodwork and jewellery on display and on sale to the public.

Speaking after the concert, Rosa Flannery, Coordinator of Music Generation Laois, said that The Malthouse, which is privately owned ‘is a stunning location for a concert, brimming with individuality and quirkiness, which combined with the wonderful musicians performing on the night, made for a brilliant evening’s entertainment.’ A group of young musicians, who are part of over 3000 young people in the County who participate in weekly Music Generation Laois programmes, took part in a workshop earlier in the evening with New Road and Cathy Jordan. These young musicians then joined the band for an encore on stage in The Malthouse that night, much to the delight of the audience.

Music Generation Laois also held bi-lingual bodhrán workshops with Dale McKay, in Portlaoise Youth Education Centre in Railway Street.

Another highlight event was a Showcase Dance Performance called RE-Connecting by Laois Youth Dance Ensemble at the Plaza, County buildings, Portlaoise. In the open air and under the direction of dance teacher Erica Borges the talented group of young dancers presented very moving contemporary dance performances highlighting the best of their repertoire with some solo performances by two visiting male dancers from Dublin.

Artist Jock Nichol conducted a wonderful “An Plein Air” workshop for landscape artists in the wonderful surroundings of Emo Court Domain and the OPW kindly opened late to give a series of free tours of the house.

The Dunamaise Arts Centre had a great turn out for Culture Night, that gave a taste of the magic that happens there throughout the year. Activities included an exhibition of James Fintan Lalor memorabilia by Brendon Deacy, an art workshop and cafe exhibition opening by students of Caroline Keane, short film screenings in the cinema thanks to the Irish Film Board, visits to the studios of Dunamaise resident artists Rebecca Deegan and Chloe Young and the official opening of an exhibition by students of Midlands Prison Education Centre.

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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.
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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.
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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.



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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.

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