Art Collecting

8 free events happening at the Harps Alive Festival in Belfast this weekend | Pro Club Bd

Harpers and historians will join forces in July to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly with five days of music and heritage in a unique cross-community series of events.

Organized by the Harps Alive partnership, the festival brings together the best harpists from across the island to celebrate the landmark event that raised music more than two centuries ago for future harps to learn from and perform.

The festival features three major concerts, smaller recitals, lectures and workshops taking place across Belfast, alongside an exhibition at Linen Hall Library and a new publication on the history of harp playing in Ireland. The event had a fantastic opening last weekend at Magilligan and Mussenden Temple, Downhill where Denis Hempson grew up. The events will conclude with a memorial service in Dublin.

Aibhlín McCrann, President of Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland, said the celebration of the anniversary represents a unique musical opportunity for the harp community.

“Our harp legacy transcends borders and has really connected partners north and south.

“We look forward to welcoming audiences across Belfast to our concerts, lectures and exhibitions, and in Dublin later in the month.”

Here are 8 free events happening in Belfast this weekend:

1. Festival start

Friday, July 15 – Library of the Linen Room

The Festival was opened by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black, and presented David Byers’ groundbreaking Gatherings of Irish Harpers 1780-1840, commissioned specifically for the Festival, with harpists Laoise Kelly and Adam O’Neill.

6 p.m. | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

2nd exhibition | The harp and its heritage

Friday 15 – Sunday 17 July – Library of the Linen Hall

The Linen Hall Library is a unique institution. It was founded in 1788 by a group of craftsmen as the Belfast Reading Society and became the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge in 1792. The Linen Hall Library played a significant role in preserving the harpers’ repertoire. Early members of the Library organized a festival of harp music in July 1792 “with the intention of taking down and recording the music for the first time”. The library was instrumental in supporting the subsequent publication of this music. The exhibition also features some of Edward Bunting’s notes and manuscripts from the Queen’s University collection, which will be on display during the festival.

3. Harp maker’s workshop and concert

Saturday 16 July – Shankill Road Library

Have you ever wondered how harps are made, how the wood is chosen, how the beautiful sonorous tone comes out of a piece of wood? Come along and discover how one of the North’s most renowned harp makers creates instruments that are in demand around the world. Hear well-known Causeway harpist Katy Bustard play the harp and you’ll appreciate the craft behind the art.

10 am | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

4. Harps are fun! Workshop with Sharon Carroll

Saturday 16 July – Turas, East Belfast Mission, Skainos Building, Newtownards Rd

Harper Sharon Carroll delves into the magic of Irish legend and invites children to come along and be enchanted by the enchanting harp sounds and intriguing stories. This is an hour for the whole family. You may even have the opportunity to try out a harp yourself!

10 am | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

5. Citizens’ demonstration

Saturday 16 July – Assembly Rooms, 3 Waring St, Belfast

The Assembly Rooms at the corner of North Street and Waring Street are the oldest public building in Belfast, dating from 1769. It was here that the famous Harpers Assembly was held in 1792. It was at the center of social life in the 18th century. It was here that the Belfast Harbor Commissioners were founded and it was here that the citizens of Belfast rejected a proposal to set up a slave trading company. The leader of the United Irishmen, Henry Joy McCracken, was court-martialled here before his execution in 1798.

It is now in a state of disrepair and a disgrace to the citizens of Belfast. Our citizens’ rally at 2.30pm on Saturday 16th July will advocate for Belfast City Council to acquire the building to use as a center to celebrate our city’s enlightened era in the 18th century. All welcome.

2:30 p.m. | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

6th Early Harp Discovery Day: Listen, learn, try! with Simon Chadwick and Sylvia Crawford

Saturday 16 July – Clifton House, 2 Clifton St

Would you like to learn more about an old Irish harp and even get your hands on a copy – and be taught a tune? Meet the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, hear this rare instrument in concert, have your questions answered during an illustrated lecture and – if you register early enough – get one of up to eight spots in a hands-on beginner’s workshop. Listen and ask questions during a 45-minute illustrated talk about the fascinating history of the early Irish harp.

Take part in a 75-minute hands-on workshop for beginners. Harps copied from originals dating from the Middle Ages to the 18th Century will be available on a first come, first served basis.

3:30 p.m. | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

7. Seinnigí Linn le Cormac de Barra (workshop and concert)

Sunday 17th July – A Cultúrlann

Internationally acclaimed harpist Cormac de Barra invites you to a workshop at An Cultúrlann in Belfast. No matter what your level, come and join us. There will be something for everyone. And that’s not all… Cormac is rolling up his sleeves for a special family concert at 1pm, where you’ll hear the best harp music performed by one of our most renowned harpers.

12 p.m. | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

8. Taking the Tune: ‘3 Tunes to go’ (workshop and concert)

Sunday, July 17 – St. Joseph’s, Sailortown

Come along to St. Joseph’s, Sailorstown for our 3 Takeaway Tunes Challenge. See how quickly you can pick up a harp tune from Luke Webb, Eilis Lavelle and Lauren O’Neill. Then relax on your Sunday afternoon at our Harp Moments concert, where Luke, Eilís and Lauren perform their favorite Bunting songs.

12 p.m. | Free

More information and tickets can be found at

Various paid Harps Alive events will be held throughout the weekend including Live Music Events – Strike Up the Harp with Lauren O’Neill & Eugene McKenna, Lunchtime Concert: Northern Stars, 230 Years a-Harping and the Gala Finale- Concert.

There are also several lectures and illustrated lectures including Denis Hempson, the Harper and his Legacy and From Mayo to Belfast with Harper Hugh Higgins.

For more informations or to get your tickets go to

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