Swell News & Updates

Mark Geary digs deep to make magic

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As he prepares to release his eagerly-anticipated fifth studio album, popular Irish singer/songwriter Mark Geary is set to perform at Ireland’s best kept festival secret, Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore Island off the coast of County Donegal.

The songwriter has just returned from a ten-day tour on the west coast of North America, starting the promotion of his new album The Fool, which is due for release in October.

Mark is no stranger to playing intimate venues around the States having lived in New York for several years in the 1990s from where he honed his craft as both a performer and songwriter.

“I was in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland for about ten days, slowly starting to bang on the drum to promote the new album and it was a real boost in the arm to play these new songs.

“It’s a lovely feeling, having a new body of work looking forward to an audience hearing them for the first time,” said Mark.

Mark loves having the luxury of being able to play new material while on tour. “Something happens with them on the road and when you go back into the studio you can recreate what they felt like when you faced the audience and committed to the song.

“I was very fortunate that I got to tour the States with my music very early in my life and always had myself pegged as a travelling musician turning up in a small town with the purpose of singing for the people, and I have continued to do that.

“A lot of bands and artists live in a van for years and just continue their extensive touring. What that does for you as a musician is, you really get your armor, it becomes so much more than trying to find an audience, it does something to you.

“You get so much better, even thought you haven’t slept properly, the muscle memory starts to happen on stage and it becomes very uncomplicated and you’re on a very different mind set.”

Irish music fans first took note of Mark when he returned to Ireland to perform his song Volunteer on a then new television series that had been developed for RTÉ Television, called Other Voices.

He said: “I had left Ireland on a one-way ticket and was living in New York when Glen (Hansard) asked me to come back and do this show.

“I’ll be honest, I had never even been to Dingle. It is only because of music that I got to go there and later would get to tour all of Ireland with my first album 33 ⅓ Grand Street.”

Having now toured all over Ireland for many years, this will not be the first time Mark performs on an Irish island, either, as he gets set to play at the not-for-profit festival on Arranmore.

“I played Inishboffin in the Arran Islands before. There’s something very potent about islanders, in general; We are islanders ourselves, and truly unique in that regard.

I remember coming back to Ireland and found myself in places like Dingle, West Cork or Letterkenny and being struck by the fact that the town’s night’s entertainment was you! The whole village would be out to see you for an evening of song and chat and I remember thinking I would really have to up my game from the sets I had to do in New York.

“I knew I would have to dig deep to make it magic. And maybe the challenge here in Ireland is the fact that there’s so much talent. You’re performing in a small room and suddenly a woman in the audience, who normally just works in an office, is singing the most beautiful harmony.”

“I’m sure that’s all multiplied on a little island off the coast of Donegal. There are people and personalities there, and they are just as important as you.”

Mark Geary and his band play Swell Music & Arts Festival which takes place on on Arranmore Island, Co Donegal from July 21 to 23. For all the latest news on Mark Geary go to; Tickets for Swell Festival are available at

Frequently asked questions on Swell Festival

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As this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival quickly approaches, we have been getting a lot of queries by those attending and interested in coming, so we have put together some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that will hopefully assist you!

It’s a beautiful day in Donegal today and we hope it continues all the way into next week. Have you got your tickets for Swell, yet? Click here and book them now and come enjoy an amazing weekend on Arranmore!

Are day tickets available?
YES! Day tickets are available to purchase from the website.

I am under 18, can I come to the festival alone?

NO! All under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult over 25 years of age with a valid ticket.

Do children have to buy a ticket?

All children under 12 years of age are permitted FREE ENTRY to the festival providing they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.

Can I light a fire or BBQ on the campsite or anywhere on the island?

NO! We would ask that you don’t light any fires anywhere on the island in respect for the generosity of the locals for allowing us to have our festival on their beautiful island. You are permitted to use a disposable BBQ in the campsite but you must tidy it up afterwards and refrain from littering.

What time does the festival finish each night?
The main scheduled acts finishes at midnight each night but they will be some pre-arranged cabaret and shenanigans til the wee hours if you wish to partake.

Can I bring my own alcohol into the festival?
We really don’t mind if you want to bring a sensible amount of your own alcohol into the campsite Please do not bring glass bottles as they will cause a hazard if broken. This is a family festival, so please drink sensible and refrain from over-indulgence.

NB: No bottles or containers are allowed past the main front gates into the festival site.

Is there a bar at the festival?
Yes, you will find the main bar inside the Dave Muldowney Stage (it’s the big one) and smaller bar at the Kinnegar Stage.

Is there food and drink available at the festival?
Yes, there will be a selection of vendors with different kinds of food and beverages available throughout the weekend.

What about parking camper vans?
While there is no official camper van parking, an area between the port and the festival site can accommodate some parking. As it is not part of the festival site, we can not guarantee ample parking for all vehicles.

Can I bring my car/van onto the island?
You may bring your vehicle although there will be a surcharge by the ferry company as we don’t offer car crossing with any ticket. Should you wish to do so you must book your crossing to guarantee your place, otherwise you may be delayed. Parking is at your own risk, there is no parking available on site and any vehicles causing an obstruction will be moved as we must respect the needs of islanders, as well as ensuring that emergency vehicles have access if required.

How far is the festival from the campsite?

The campsite is next to the main festival site.

How far is the festival site from the pier?

The festival a 15min walk from Arranmore Pier.

Can I buy tickets on the island?
YES! When you arrive on the island you will be able to buy tickets at our ticket/registration office at the festival site.

Where do I check-in my ticket?

When you arrive on the island you will be able to check-in and receive your armband at our ticket/registration office at the festival site. Entry to festival site WILL NOT be permitted without your Swell armband. DON’T FORGET to bring a printout of your pre-purchased ticket with you!

How do I get to and from the island? (red ferry) and (blue ferry) have details of all crossings online. There will also be additional ferries for festival goers that need to leave Sunday night/Monday morning. Phone the companies for more details. If you decide to bring a vehicle you must book your crossing in advance to guarantee your place, otherwise you may be delayed as space on each ferry is limited.

Please note: While the Swell Festival is working alongside the ferry providers to accommodate the festival goers, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual to organise their own travel plans to and from the island.

When does the festival start and end?

The festival gates will open on Friday, July 21 at 5pm. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings the gates will be opened from 10am til after midnight. The festival closes at midnight on July 23.

Make this year’s Swell Festival a family affair

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We received so many queries about whether or not children could attend attend Swell Festival that we decided we should post a quick blog!

Swell Music & Arts Festival prides itself in being a very family friendly festival, so much so that some kids have even been growing up with our annual event.

Kate O’Kallaghan and her husband Seamus Devenny and two sons have attended every year of Swell Festival to-date.

Their two boys have gone from enjoying the music, and entertainment provided for the kids, to becoming stage-hands, and even performing on stage.

“It’s a fantastic festival run by a small but very dedicated team who have been absolutely determined to make it a success. It’s always great craic out on the island for the weekend, it transports you into a different time and place and it’s a great opportunity to just let the hair down and have a bit of fun.

“The atmosphere is very chilled, everyone’s out there to just enjoy themselves and soak up the music. I’ve always had a lovely warm response when I’ve played there. I usually have a Sunday slot and it’s such a gorgeous day at the festival. Everyone is in a great mood and all relaxed, if a little wind swept, after a couple of days on an island,” she told Donegal Woman this week.

We welcome children of all ages, as long as they are supervised by a guardian at all times. Underage teenagers can get to enjoy their first festival experience, while children 12 and under even go free!

We understand that not all kids will be into watching the musical acts at all times and therefore there will be lots of kids entertainment provided.

As well as being able to take them around the beautiful island that is Arranmore, and all that it has to offer, there will also be various circus acts, from jugglers to stilt walkers, on the festival grounds over the weekend.

We look forward to welcome many families to this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival which promises to be another memorable one. Click here to book your tickets

Pack your sun screen! Reports predict heatwave for Swell

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Dare we say it, but early predictions have indicated that we could possibly be in for a heatwave over Swell weekend.

It is still early days and, as we all know, the weather in Ireland can be very unpredictable, but hopes are high that this could be an all-around amazing weekend for festival goers on the island.

The Facebook page Donegal Weather Channel, who do a great job reporting the weather for the county, reported earlier today that nearly all weather models are in agreement of a warmer spell of weather being on the way.

It stated: “The American GFS, the European ECMWF, UK Met Office, the Canadian GEM, Japan JMA weather models are all going for a blocking pattern to setup over Ireland for the end of next week into the weekend with a Azores High pressure system to sit over western Europe to bring a very fine spell of weather which will see plenty of sunshine and warmer conditions with temperatures into the mid twenties.”

Donegal Weather Channel wrote the length of the spell of good weather at the moment is not clear but could last a while, but also warned: “If this set up takes place, which I think it’s going to, it will also bring the ongoing risk of thunderstorms.”

Things can change, of course, but wouldn’t you hate to miss Swell Music & Arts Festival if the weather does turn out to be as predicted.

We can’t think of a better place to be in Ireland than Arranmore Island, when the weather is great. Who are we kidding, we love it even when the weather isn’t that good.

We have called in someone to give us a more educated weather report for Swell weekend next week, so watch this space.But in the meantime, make sure to get your tickets for Swell here and don’t miss out on a great weekend of music, arts and possibly amazing weather!

Last chance to get your Islander tickets

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Last updated Monday, July 17, 10pm
THIS is an important notice regarding Islander tickets to this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival. The discounted tickets have been on sale since Wednesday, July 5, and we are delighted to say that they are nearly all gone!

Island residents who have booked tickets are asked to collect their tickets from Early’s Bar by Wednesday, July 19, at the latest.

Members of the island diaspora who can’t make it home until Friday can still pick their tickets up then, but are asked to please contact Jerry directly on Mobile 0878054246 or send a direct message to the Early’s Bar Facebook page to confirm that they are definitely taking the tickets, as demand has been very high for the Islander tickets.

Due to such an enhanced line-up at this year’s Swell, there will be no free resident passes issued this year and there is only a very small amount of discounted Islander tickets left. So to avoid disappointment, purchase your tickets as soon as possible from Early’s.

Members of the Arranmore Diaspora also have the chance to book tickets for themselves, if you can’t purchase them in person before the festival. You can do so by contacting Jerry directly on Mobile 0878054246 or sending a direct message to the Early’s Bar Facebook page.

If you do miss out on the Islander tickets, we would still love to see many of you at the festival as your support is very important to us. Day passes will still be available on the website. We thank you all for your understanding and support.

Swell is a homecoming for Spats Colombo

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WHEN Spats Colombo perform on the Stáitse na nGael (Irish Stage) at Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore later this month it will very much be a homecoming.

The band has been together for several years now and the current line-up features no less than three Donegal natives – Not bad for a Connemara-based band.

Spats Colombo features Donegal’s own Caroline Ní Dhubhchoin from Falcarragh (vocals), Stephen Curran from Castlefinn (drums) and Letterkenny man Micheal Ó Ciaraidh (fiddle).

The band’s line-up is completed by founding member, Simon Noble from Oxford on vocals, Grainne Bleasdale (vocals) and Brendan Feeney on bass.

Micheal said: “We have a lot of different members of the group all from different schools of musical thought. Caroline brings a traditional Irish quality to the vocals while my background in classical violin playing is probably noticeable.

“Simon (who writes the music) has a diverse taste in music – from the likes of The Beatles to the Mamas & Papas and people can tell us that they can hear these influences in the close harmony, easy-listening nature of our songs. So – alternative Irish language music is probably a safe summary of our style!”

Jokingly known amongst referred to as the unofficial TG4 House Band by friends, as a lot of them work at the Irish language station, it is only fitting that Spats Colombo will be one of the highlights on this year’s Stáitse na nGael at Swell Festival which will be compered by RTE Raidio na Gaeltacht broadcaster Donall Mac Ruairí.

Micheal said: “Although our musical tastes differ, we definitely all share a common love of the Irish language and culture.

“There has been a real new energy and life to the Irish language in recent years so it’s great to be a part of that in some small way.

“There are also some amazing individuals and groups who are doing great things musically for the language. The likes of Muireann NicAmhlaoibh and IMLÉ.

“We were nominated for Banna na Bliana at this year’s Gradaim Nós in the Sugar Club in Dublin and I remember talking to a music reviewer on the night who complimented the performances as progressive musically…and that the music just happened to be in the Irish language.

“I thought that was really well put. And, I suppose because of our strong Donegal connection we’re particularly excited about playing Swell.

“We’ve only been able to do one tour of Donegal as a band, so it’s great to get back up there again to play for our friends and family.”

Spats Colombo are well experienced in getting festival crowds going having performed at most of the major festivals in Ireland. “We played the Pobal Gaeilge at Electric Picnic the last two years running and really enjoyed playing the Bulmers Tent at Body & Soul, as well.”

Meanwhile in his day job, Micheal will be going into his fourth year in the television business this September and with that is taking on some new roles including starting work on a brand new online platform for young adults launching soon on TG4.

“I can’t say too much about it yet, but the details will be publicised soon. It’s been a busy year between fronting the 10@10 schools campaign with Operation Transformation, Dancing With The Stars and working with Art Parkinson and Miriam O’Callaghan as ambassadors for Seachtain na Gaeilge earlier in the year. Outside of television and social media, I’m enjoying working on my radio show with Galway-based station Raidió na dTreabh.

“Check Spats Colombo out on Facebook and give us a like to follow our progress. We have links there to our Soundcloud and iTunes pages. I’m a bit of a Snapchat addict so anyone of a similar disposition can find me on @irishmike-carey or on Instagram: @_mickyc_.”

The Stáitse na nGael will also feature Moya Brennan, Clann Mhic Ruairi amongst others. Other highlights at this year’s Swell include Mundy, Mark Geary, Orchid Collective, The California Feetwarmers, The Emerald Armada and many more.

Click here to buy your tickets online and follow the festival on Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival and Twitter: @SwellFestival

We have lots of comedy talent at this year’s Swell

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We are delighted to announce that we have a host of comedy acts once again performing at this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore.

Both Saturday and Sunday, comedian Barry Mack will be hosting the comedy showcase from 3 to 4.30pm on the Kinnegar Stage feauring some great talent such as Gary lynch, Peter E Davidson, Kieran Mena, Jessica Harkin, Sara Ni Cuireann, Mary Flanigan, Liam Harris and Brian O’Toole.

In the past year, Barry Mack has written for RTE Radio, appeared in a short film that was featured in the Underground Film Festival and another that was short-listed for RTE Short Screen. He is currently touring his fourth one man show ‘The MackDaddy’ about fatherhood, social networking and Shakespeare.

Ireland’s leading mid-Life crisis comedian, Gary Lynch has performed all over Ireland, UK & Scandinavia, and has made over 600 appearances at the Edinburgh Festival alone over the past five years.

Sara Ni Cuireann, a bearded culchie from Gaoth Dobhair, has been living the dream in Belfast and is looking forward to performing at Swell having attended previously.

Jessica Harkin is a children’s entertainer trying desperately to break into adult market because children are terrifying and drunk people love magic.

Liam Harris is a Dublin-based comedian who has performed around the country. This is his second year performing at Swell Festival after a stellar headline gig last year he is not to be missed.

Brian O’Toole is a young comedian from Carlow who has performed in clubs all over Ireland as well as Longitude and the Edinburgh Fringe. If you see Brian on the street please give him a hug. He needs it.

Mary Flanigan has been gigging for three years, making a name for herself in the comedy circuit across the UK and Ireland. She was a semi-finalist in the Funny Women 2016 awards, has been featured on BBC Radio Ulster, and has written for Late Licence on BBC NI. She is taking her one-woman show to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, ‘Mary Flanigan Is A Pisces, Obviously’.

With a delivery as rough as the Belfast estate he grew up in, Kieran Mena gives his eccentric outlook on life, Donald Trump and time travel, having supported well know names such as Rich Hall, John Bishop. Kieran has preformed internationally to wide-spread acclaim.

As a member of sketch group Love the Concept, Peter E Davidson has performed at the Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh fringe. As a writer he’s written for BBC Radio 4, 4 Extra Ulster and BBC NI. He is one of the regular host of Masons Comedy Club. In 2016 he performed his new stand up show “Guns N’ Rose” as part of the Belfast Comedy festival and appeared as a guest panelist on BBC’s The Blame Game.

Tickets for this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore, July 21 to 23, are available here and follow the festival on Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival and Twitter: @SwellFestival

Bigí linn ar an toinn i mbliana arís ag Féile Swell

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Tá sé buailte linn arís Féile Ceoil agus Ealaíne Swell suite sa Ghaeltacht ar Oileán Árainn Mhóir amach uaidh chósta Dhún na nGall agus dar ndóigh béim ollmhór á chur ar cheol agus ar fhilíocht na Gaeilge ann.

Don dara bliain as a chéile beidh Stáitse na nGael ag cur ardán ar fáil do cheoltóirí, idir óg agus aosta, atá ag cleachtadh a gceirde as Gaeilge.

‘S é Dónall Mac Ruairí, láithreoir le RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta, a bheidh mar fhear a tí arís i mbliana agus é ag súil go mór le fáilte a chur roimh ghlór ‘Clannad’ Máire Ní Bhraonáin agus a clann, a bhí mar phríomhaíonna ar an stáitse anuraidh.

Cé go mbeidh go leor acu sin a bhí i lár an aonaigh linn arís i mbliana, Clann Mhic Ruairí, Emma Ní Fhíoruisce, Árchú, JJ Ó Dochartaigh, Lauren Ní Chasaide agus Megan Nic Ruairí, beidh maighdeana go leor ag teacht isteach ar an toinn i mbliana. Ina measc siúd beidh Spats Columbo, Diane Ní Chanainn agus príomhaíonna na bliana seo Imlé, buíon a bhfuil clú agus cáil bainte amach acu mar cheannródaithe cheol comhaimseartha na nGael.

Muna bhfuil go leor ansin, beidh idir fhilí agus cheoltóirí den scoth as Albain inár gcuideachta, Síneag Nic A’ tSaoir, Pàdraig Mac Aoidh agus bean a mheallfadh an fhuiseog ón aer Kathleen MacInnes.

Dar ndóigh, ar na stáitsí eile, beidh ceoltóirí agus buíonta d’achan chineál Mundy, Mark Geary, Orchid Collective, The California Feetwarmers, The Emerald Armada agus go leor eile nach iad.

Bigí linn ar an toinn i mbliana arís ag Féile Ceoil agus Ealaíne Swell ar Oileán Árainn Mhóir, 21ú go 23ú Iúl, gabh chuig agus lean muid ar Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival agus ar Twitter: @SwellFestival

Mark Geary is playing Swell 2017!

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This year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore island (July 21 to 23) features some fantastic acts and it’s all thanks to friendships being made over the years.

The organisers are thrilled to announce that well-known Irish singer/songwriter Mark Geary will be one of the headline acts at this year’s Swell Festival.

Mark Geary is a songwriter’s favourite and first struck a chord with Swell co-founder John Muldowney when the well-known Letterkenny and saw the singer on RTÉ’s Other Voices.

“He just blew me away singing Volunteer and I promptly bought his album 33 1/3 Grand Street which has been a firm favourite and go-to album of mine since.”

John said he hadn’t heard about Mark in a while, but when he discovered that the singer had a new album coming out, he promptly placed his order.

Through his interaction with the website, John discovered that Mark did a lot of the work behind the scenes himself and the two struck up a conversation and became friendly online.

John said: “He actually sent me two albums and I emailed back thanking him. He befriended me on Facebook and when I sent out the blanket invite to Swell Festival, he sent me a personal message thanking me for the invitation to the festival and we started talking about it.

“I told him that we didn’t have a large budget to work with, while he told me that he had a new album coming out that he was hoping to promote. So between the jigs and the reels I am so delighted that Mark Geary will be performing at this year’s Swell.”

John also paid tribute to the young and emerging talent performing at this year’s festival, attributing many of the acts to the connections made to BIMM Dublin Music College.
“There have been so many musicians from Donegal who have attended BIMM, performed at Swell and then also told all their friends about us who in turn want to play.

“We also have a number of ‘local heroes’ playing who have cut their teeth and regularly event like Disturbance hosted by Nigel Hegarty at No 58 in Letterkenny, acts like Lunch Machine, Aul Boy, The Barbiturates and many more,” he said.

Other headline acts include Moya Brennan & Family, Mundy, Clann Mhic Ruairi, The Emerald Armada, The California Feetwarmers and Orchid Collective.

John and the team are also pleased that Earagail Arts Festival are back on board hosting the Mountain Stage, two days of electronica, contemporary, traditional and folk artists in music and spoken word, hosting local emerging artists, national and international guests from Ireland, Scotland and the USA in The Barn – Ireland’s only nomadic, agricultural outbuilding created by Belfast based artist, inventor and explorer Paddy Bloomer.

To buy tickets for this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore, July 21 to 23, click here and follow the festival on Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival and

The First Lady Of Celtic Music Moya Brennan is back at Swell

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The First lady of Celtic Music, Moya Brennan, makes a very welcome return to Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore Island in Donegal later this month.

As the lead singer of world-renowned Clannad, Moya has been one of the greatest ambassadors to Donegal and the Irish language for over four decades and continues to promote her native county with pride to this day.

Held in high regard by the Irish and world music industry, Moya has also built up a very strong relationship with artists of all ages through her monthly monthly event Clubeo, which she hosts with RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta, Dónall Mac Ruairí.

Many of those artists have also made the leap from the world famous stage at Leo’s Tavern in Meenaleck, Crolly to the stages at Swell Festival over the past few years.

Moya Brennan & Family, husband Tim Jarvis, daughter Aisling and son Pól, will be joined by a host of other talented Irish language performers, including Clann Mhic Ruairí, Spats Colombo Emma Ni Fhioruisce, Lauren Ni Chasaide and others.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to see Moya and her family’s magical performance, and the emotionally stirring Clann Mhic Ruairi, on the Mountain Stage at last year’s Swell will tell you, you don’t want to miss these performances!!!

Swell Festival is proud to be able to support the promotion of the Irish language. Bigí Linn!!

The fourth annual Swell Music & Arts Festival takes place on Arranmore Island, Donegal from Friday, July 21 to Sunday, July 23. Click here to purchase tickets.