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04 juin 2008

Father and son behind new Thomastown music festival

Thomastown will host Ireland's newest boutique festival in August, with headline performances from Jools Holland and his 19-piece rhythm and blues orchestra and guests, the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Martyn and a host of the best new Irish bands and singers.

The event is being hosted by Kilkenny artist Ramie Leahy and his son Enda at Dysart Castle, one kilometre from the town. The one-day festival will take place on August 9, during the Kilkenny Arts Festival, which Ramie helped found with a group of local artists in 1974.

The venue, Dysart castle is the birthplace and home of the enlightenment philosopher George Berkeley. One third of any proceeds from the event will go to saving the castle, which is a listed heritage site and close to collapse.

The castle sits in the woodlands outside Thomastown in the middle of a huge natural amphitheatre which locals in Thomastown are now calling "baby-Slane".

A second stage, the "Glade Arena", is also a natural bowl-shaped amphitheatre, surrounded by trees which will be lit with festoons of lights for the event. The event will also have a comedy tent.

Artists are still being added to the bill ahead of the launch of the event next week, but a confirmed list of acts already playing the event has been released. In addition to the three headliners the festival will showcase the best of young Irish acts, from indie-rockers Ham Sandwich, the Dirty Epics and Dali, to singer songwriters Clive Barnes, Luan Parle and Gemma Hayes and funk-driven Dublin act Hoarsebox.

"We've been working on this for almost two years now and everyone, from local politicians and the gardai to the entirety of Thomastown have given us such great encouragement and support. It'll be a really great show. We've hired in a production team from the UK who are event managers for Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel for the past 20 years, so if they don't know how to put on a good show no-one does.

"And we're really happy Jools has agreed to play for our first year, he represents exactly the kind of quality music that spans the generations, and his role in encouraging and showcasing hot new talent is exactly what we're trying to do at Dysart.This is an event that will appeal to people of all ages, to anyone who likes good music and art and having a bit of craic."

"The venue is amazing too, with 125 acres and three naturally sloping amphitheatres, all the production guys and bands we've had out keep telling us it'll be the best show of the year. The site could easily hold 40,000 people but this first event will be nothing like that kind of scale. "We're working with the fire service on ensuring the safety of everyone who comes and at this stage we're just really looking forward to the day," added Enda.

For more information on the festival or to book tickets see

Mary Cody /kilkenny Peopple

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