President’s Blog – 12 August 2019 – Festival Attraction on the Streets of Sligo

Hello Members –Tourism is one of the central pillars underlining the Sligo Chamber vision for the development of Sligo.  Key to the promotion of tourism and to attracting and retaining visitors is having activities and attractions that are varied and of sufficient interest to a wide ranging audience.  For years the main Summer focus in Sligo at the end of July and the start of August has been the Yeats Summer School, now in its sixtieth year and the Sligo Races at Cleveragh where the great Irish past time of horseracing has been celebrated there since 1955.  But what is particularly noteworthy as we seek to strive to reach our goal of attracting 2 million visitors annually to the region by the year 2040, is the range and diversity of additional festivals and attractions that have emerged and that are being built around the more traditional staple of Yeats and the Races.

The Sligo Summer Festival ran over four nights from Thursday night August 8th through to last night, Sunday August 11th .  What makes this Festival particularly special is its town centre location.  With a stage setting in Stephen Street car park right in the heart of the town, it not only makes the festival readily accessible to locals and tourists alike, it also makes the local hostelries accessible to quench the hunger and thirst of festival goers.   In this its seventh year, thousands of people were attracted over the four nights to hear national and local entertainers including Sligo’s own Kieran Quinn who headlined on the opening night with his rendition of hits from the 90s.  Great credit is due to Sligo County Council for making the Stephen Street car park available for this event and its success provides real support to the Council proposal to develop Stephen Street car park into a cultural plaza, a proposal for which some €3 million in funding has been secured.

Music of a different sort saw the Sligo International Jazz Summer School, a six-day event which ran from July 23rd to July 28th and featured quality jazz music sessions in pubs, hotels and cafes across the town.  The primary focus was on educating the musicians of tomorrow with workshops, masterclasses and jam sessions being tutored by some of the world’s finest jazz educators and musicians.

The “Tread Softly” festival was held from Friday July 25th running for over a week through to Saturday August 3rd.  Now in its eighth year, the festival had a particularly unique programme of events inspired by the landscape of County Sligo and the myths and stories of people associated with the county.  This was a special undertaking for which the organisers are to be commended as it really did span the breadth of the county.  From a series of guided walks through the Sligo landscape entitled “To the Waters and the Wild” to the “Nine Queens”, a line from the Yeats Play “On Baile’s Strand” where nine sculptors worked with community groups at beaches across the Sligo coastline to create a series of sand sculptures depicting the daughters of Manannan Mac Lir, the sea god of Irish mythology.  Other events included an archaeological talk on recent findings at Carrowkeel, an evening of poetry and prose and an exhibition at the Hamilton Gallery of works of invited artists.  A remarkable programme of events with something for everyone, young and old with any interest in things Art.

Another festival and one which emphasises the cultural diversity of Sligo was the Gay Pride Festival, a three day series of events which ran from Friday August 9th through to yesterday August 11th. The highlight of the festival, which was organised by the Sligo LGBTQ community in association with the Dublin LGBTQ Pride and the Outing Festival, was Sligo Pride March centred in town on Saturday afternoon.

Racing of a different kind took place over the August Bank Holiday weekend with the “Streets of Sligo” 5km Road Race.  Hosted by Sligo Athletic Club in conjunction with Sligo County Council, the race was held over two laps on the Saturday evening through the town centre core on closed streets.  A huge success, this flat fast course attracted a large field of almost 500 runners from across the North West.  The scene was perfectly captured by our regular Sligo Chamber photographer, Donal Hackett through his superb photograph of the runners as they start the race with the iconic mural of WB Yeats as the backdrop looking on knowingly and with approval.  Remaining with the sporting theme, the Sligo Stages Rally was held on July 14th.  Based at the Sligo Park Hotel, the Sligo Rally, which is part of the National Rally Championship attracted a field of over 120 cars which when taken together with crew support and technical motor rally officials, resulted in over 1,000 people visiting Sligo.  TV coverage of the event was provided by “On the Limit Sports” screened on TG4 and which showcased the natural beauty of the county with spectacular footage of Glencar Lake and Lough Gill around which the rally stages looped.

Moving on to this coming week and the activities and attractions continue with Sligo Heritage Week which starts this Saturday August 17th.  A series of cultural heritage events take place across the county over the course of the week.  Included among the many events are a presentation by the Sligo Heritage and History Club on the History of St. John’s Cathedral throughout the centuries.  The Cathedral, which is the oldest building in continuous use in Sligo Town, can trace its history back as far as 1245 and the existence of a monastic foundation on the site as referenced in the Annals of the Four Masters.  Other events include a guided historical walking tour of Sligo Town and a day of live music against the backdrop of the ancient archaeological tombs of Carrowmore.

So there it is, a whistle-stop tour of the many, varied and wide-ranging diverse festival attractions on the streets of Sligo in late July and early August as Sligo continues to build its reputation as a must visit destination.

Until next time

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.


Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber