2019 cultural highlights: You’ll laugh, you’ll picnic, you’ll plough

The best music, theatre, comedy, film and spoken word in the coming year

Dreaming in Blue
Until February 14th
Harry Clarke's dreamy The Eve of Saint Agnes is at the Hugh Lane in Dublin, but you can see his wonderful watercolour sketches, plus hear Fiona Shaw reading the original Keats poem that inspired it at Cork's Crawford Gallery. crawfordartgallery.ie

First Fortnight
January 1st-30th
The arts and mental health festival has grown, and now features art, music, circus, film, theatre and spoken word from across Europe. Including Emmet Kirwan, Stefanie Preissner, Saint Sister and The Academic, in events nationwide. firstfortnight.ie

Out to Lunch
January 4th-27th
Music, theatre, comedy and spoken word in Belfast to kick the new year off with The Henry Girls, Deirdre O'Kane, Scott Matthews, Molly and more, for all those sorely in need of cultural relief. cqaf.com

Music for Galway Midwinter
January 18th-20th
The theme, Swansongs, takes masterworks from the close of the great composers' lives. Expect deep emotion from Brahms, Strauss, Bach and Schubert at the Town Hall Theatre. musicforgalway.ie


Brian Eno: 77 Million Paintings
January 18th-February 24th
He's worked with every rock star you can think of (U2, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson – take your pick), but Brian Eno is an artist too. See what he gets up to on the visual side of things at the Royal Hibernian Academy. rhagallery.ie

January 23rd-27th
Getting jiggy in Dublin's Temple Bar and beyond with Andy Irvine, The Fureys, Stockton's Wing, Steeleye Span, Cathy Davey and more. tradfest.ie

Year of the Pig
February 1st-17th
According to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Earth Pig is a year of fortune, luck, friendship and love for all the zodiac signs. Couldn't come a moment too soon. At venues across Dublin. dublinchinesenewyear.com

On Blueberry Hill
February 6th-and touring
Fresh from the US, Sebastian Barry's acclaimed play kicks off a national tour with a first date at Sligo's Hawk's Well Theatre. fishamble.com

Spike Cello Festival
February 8th-10th
Now in its third year, the celebration all things cello includes the instruments playing a computer game, storytelling from The Devil's Violin, plus special events for younger people. There's even cello yoga, yocella, (which had to happen sometime). At venues across Dublin. spikecellofest.com

Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival
February 20th-March 3rd
From blockbusters to quiet masterpieces, it's the annual film lovers' fiesta. Lights out and popcorn at the ready. diff.ie

New Music Dublin
February 28th-March 3rd
Featuring new compositions, commissions and Irish premieres, this mini festival includes Muskifabrik, Jennifer Walshe, Elaine Agnew and more. nch.ie

The Gloaming
March 4th-11th
Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Thomas Bartlett, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dennis Cahill play their only Irish dates in 2019, back to back at the National Concert Hall. nch.ie

St Patrick's Festival
March 14th-18th
Time was St Patrick's Day was a few dodgy floats, a lot of rain, and the pubs were shut. Fast forward to a five-day extravaganza of music, street performance, arts and green-hued adventure in Dublin, with more across the nation. stpatricksfestival.ie

Cork International Poetry Festival
March 19th-23rd
Is there something in the waters of the Lee? Cork does seem to accrue more than its fair share of poets. Add Irish and international voices for a real rhyme fest. corkpoetryfest.net

March 20th-23rd, and touring
Sonya Kelly's play about the stuff we sit on was a sell-out hit at Galway Arts Festival in 2018, and now kicks off a country-wide tour at the Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. druid.ie

Blue Planet II Live
March 23rd-24th
Imagine the spectacular visuals of David Attenborough's Blue Planet up on the big screen, with the original lush score performed live by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Anita Rani does the narration at the SSE Arena Belfast on March 23rd, and the 3Arena Dublin on March 24th. blueplanet2live.co.uk

Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival
March 28th-31st
Margaret Drabble, Michael Holroyd, Pankaj Mishra, Sebastian Barry, Kate Mosse, John Boyne, David Runciman and more are reasons to catch a Dart to Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin and get inspired to put your reading glasses on. mountainstosea.ie

March 28th-April 20th
Marty Rea and Eileen Walsh star in the Irish Premiere of David Eldridge's (anti) romance for the 21st century. gatetheatre.ie

One City, One Book
Throughout April
This year it's three books, as Edna O'Brien's 1960s The Country Girls Trilogy will be celebrated, discussed, dissected and, one hopes, thoroughly enjoyed. dublinonecityonebook.ie

Cúirt International Festival of Literature
April 8th-14th
Jeanette Winterson, Joshua Cohen, Patricia Smith, Dervla Murphy and Thomas McCarthy are among the line-up, alongside Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the special rapporteur to the United Nations on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, at the 34th literary festival in Galway. cuirt.ie

Music Town
April 12th-22nd
Music leaps over cultural boundaries, adds extraordinary diversity, but is accessible to all. Explore more across Dublin City in this 10-day celebration. musictown.ie

Light A Penny Candle
April 24th-May 4th
Adapted by Shay Linehan, from Maeve Binchy's much-loved novel. Aisling and Elizabeth have to survive De Valera's Ireland, their raging hormones, and the struggle for independence in a world at war. gaietytheatre.ie

April 30th-May 1st
Influential US choreographer, Mark Morris, brings his Dance Group to Dublin for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles classic Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Purists may shiver at the innovative, jazzy arrangements, but most will just shiver at the joy of it all. bordgaisenergytheatre.ie

Throughout May
The nationwide festival celebrating the arts and creativity as we age, is also great fun for those who never wanted to grow up at all. Interested? Register an event for inclusion in the programme until March 31st. bealtaine.ie

Cork International Choral Festival
May 1st-5th
Sing it loud with the 65th festival, as thousands come to compete and entertain. Highlights include Norway's Pust ("breath" in Norwegian), the perfect antidote to Scandi-noir as summer comes round. corkchoral.ie

Dublin Dance Festival
May 1st-19th
Look out for Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's 1983 Rosas Danst Rosas, which returned to the public eye a few years ago when it (ahem) "inspired" Beyoncé's Countdown. Thisispopbaby's Riot is back, and there's a new work by Colin Dunne and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui too. dublindancefestival.ie

It Takes A Village
May 10th-13th
Who'd have thought it? A holiday village take-over, giving you fabulous festival fun, without the manky tents, and with the added attraction of baths and fridges. A festival without the warm beer and grime? Plus DJs in the swimming pool. Why didn't it happen sooner? A big hit in 2018, it's back for more at Trabolgan in East Cork. ittakesavillage.fm

Kilkenny Cat Laughs
May 30th-June 3rd
Cracking us up for the past 25 years, the Marble City festival celebrates its quarter century with Dara Ó Briain, Alison Spittle, Rich Hall, Phil Jupitus, Joanne McNally, and probably everyone else you can think of as well. thecatlaughs.com

International Literature Festival Dublin
May 18th-26th
Nothing says an Irish summer like a literary festival, and there's a rash of them on the horizon, kicking off with the ILF in Dublin, ilfdublin.com; Listowel Writers' Week in Co Kerry, May 29th-June 2nd, writersweek.ie; the Dalkey Book Festival, June 13th-16th, dalkeybookfestival.org; and the West Cork Literary Festival, July 12th-29th, westcorkmusic.ie.

Blackwater Valley Opera Festival
May 28th-June 3rd
Donizetti's tale of love and intrigue, Don Pasquale, staged in the gorgeous grounds of Lismore Castle, plus a programme of recitals in the great houses of the Blackwater Valley. Elegant musical bliss. blackwatervalleyoperafestival.com

Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas
June 7th-9th
What did we say about summer and book festivals? Part of the fun of Borris, is its small size, so you get to hang out with the writers and speakers for chats that might just solve the world's problems (at least it feels that way). This year they include Julian Barnes, Mary Robinson, Philippa Perry, Paul Muldoon and Ben Okri.  festivalofwritingandideas.com

June 11th-16th
Boaters on, and gird your stomachs for nutty gizzards at the annual extravaganza wrapping around Bloomsday, June 16th. With venues ranging from the James Joyce tower in Sandycove to Glasnevin Cemetery, the festival is so popular it has even sprouted a Fringe. bloomsdayfestival.ie

Right Here Right Now!
June 14th-16th
The Ark's brand new festival for children kicks off in Dublin. We're promised a parade, shows, workshops, and more, coinciding with Crinniú na nóg, the national day of creativity for children and young people, which had its first outing in 2018. ark.ie

Cork Midsummer Festival
June 14th-23rd
From epic street feasts to cutting edge art, spoken word and drama, the People's Republic of Cork celebrates the longest days (and the shortest nights). corkmidsummer.com

Toto Live at the Marquee
June 15th
Someone, somewhere, sits in an office trying to remember bands from the 1980s that might be persuaded back on stage to slake the nostalgia-thirsts of jaded grownups. Toto (go on, just watch the video for Africa again) is Live at the Marquee in Cork, where you can also catch Jenny Green and the RTÉ Orchestra (June 28th), and David Gray (July 7th). Tash Sultana plays (July 3rd) for more up-to-date music lovers. aikenpromotions.com

Body and Soul
June 21st-23rd
There's something funny in the woodlands, and some mad goings-on, on stage. Get your glitter out, shed your cynicism and head to Ballinlough in Co Westmeath to see who else you could be for the weekend. bodyandsoul.ie

Hinterland Festival Kells
June 27th-30th
Ahh, there hasn't been a literary festival for at least a week. Here's Hinterland to scratch the itch. Includes John Boyne, Kevin Barry and a staged reading of the Matt Spangler adaptation of Mary Manning's account of the 1980s Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike, Striking Out. hinterland.ie

West Cork Chamber Music Festival
June 28th-July 7th
Bantry's pretty nice anyway, but add concerts, recitals and masterclasses, and you can see why it's an annual pilgrimage for devotees. Then head back for August 21st-25th, for Martin Hayes's Masters of Tradition Festival. westcorkmusic.ie

Earagail Arts Festival
July 10th-28th
Who knows what will be happening to the Border by summer? Donegal's arts festival celebrates a cultural freedom of movement for its 31st outing. Catch Rioghnach Connolly and Honeyfeet, and Haitian Voodoo blues rock sensation Moonlight Benjamin. eaf.ie

Galway International Arts Festival
July 15th-28th 
Like a brilliant selection box of amazing treats (and not a cherry liqueur among them), Galway always hits the spot. Early announcements include Two Door Cinema Club, Bell X1 and the Academic. Can't wait for more. giaf.ie

Bauhaus Prints
July 20th-October 13th
Marking the ground-breaking German art school's 100th anniversary. Includes works by Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky and Natalia Goncharova. nationalgallery.ie

Kim Gordon
July 26th-November
Sonic Youth co-founder crosses boundaries, remakes them, and then rips them up all over again in this multidisciplinary exhibition. imma.ie

All Together Now
August 2nd-4th
The brainchild of the late John Reynolds, last year's inaugural festival at Curraghmore, Co Waterford, was the festival hit of the summer. Early main stage announcements include The National. alltogethernow.ie

August 2nd-4th
The international street art festival makes Waterford City magical, for all ages. spraoi.com

Dublin Horse Show
August 7th-11th
They used to call it "horse leaping". The prize for the best leap was a fiver and a riding crop. Times have changed as the RDS hosts an extravanza of craft, food, fashion, plus beautiful, beautiful horses. dublinhorseshow.com

Kilkenny Arts Festival
August 9th-18th
With classical music at its core, plus a major theatrical undertaking in the Castle Yard, we'll be watching to see what the new director, Olga Barry, has up her sleeve. kilkennyarts.ie

Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann
August 11th-18th
Everyone had such a good time in Drogheda last year, they're hosting Ireland's epic céilí and competition again. fleadhdrogheda.ie

National Heritage Week
August 17th-25th
As if we needed a reason to love the landscape and its historic buildings – well, actually, we probably do. Anyway, National Heritage Week is here to remind us. Got something you're proud of? Register events until May 1st. heritageweek.ie

Waterford Walls
August 22nd-25th
Invite a load of street artists, give 'em paint and some gable ends, and watch the magic happen. The streets of Waterford City become an open-air gallery, and the results are astonishing. waterfordwalls.ie

Electric Picnic
August 30th- September 1st
Yeah, people bleat that the EP is "over". Well, it sold out in 15 minutes, without an early act announced. Looks like the magic's still there at Stradbally. electricpicnic.ie

Dublin Fringe Festival
September 7th-22nd
Still shaking it up after 25 years. Venues, and places you couldn't even imagine were venues, come alive with tales of life, love, loss and laughs. fringefest.com

National Ploughing Championships
September 17th-19th
Try explaining the Ploughing to a space alien and you'd be lost for words. This year the mud, marquees and many, many marvellous tractors descend on Ballintrane in Co Carlow. npa.ie

Culture Night
September 20th
Get your queuing shoes on for your annual mega-cultural fix, and then wake up the next day wondering why you don't do stuff like this more often. culturenight.ie

Dublin Theatre Festival
September 26th-October 18th
An early announcement that Michael Keegan Dolan's company, Teac Damsa, is working on a new production will be sure to whet the appetites of all who loved Swan Lake - Loch na hEala. More to come at dublintheatrefestival.com

October 14th-20th
The annual extravaganza of children's arts and fun in Galway. baboro.ie

Wexford Festival Opera
October 19th-November 4th
The three main operas for 2019 are Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz, Gioacchino Rossini's Adina, and Jules Massenet's Don Quichotte. wexfordopera.com

Bram Stoker Festival
October 25th-28th
Billed as "four days of deadly adventures", make the most of the darker evenings with some spooky arts action across Dublin. bramstockerfestival.com

November 7th-10th
Given the state of the world, Kilkenny's annual economics/comedy mashup has never seemed more appropriate or timely. kilkenomics.com

Cork Film Festival
November 7th-17th
Intriguing movies, and always an excellent shorts programme at the annual Lee-side showing. corkfilmfest.org

Derek Jarman
November 15th-February 23rd, 2020
The late artist, designer, activist and film-maker's work gets a welcome showing, including the haunting and beautiful film, Blue. imma.ie

Festive Frolics
From November 29th
Too soon to think about Christmas 2019? Pencil in Waterford Winterval (winterval.ie), Glow Cork (glowcork.ie) and Elftown Galway (elftowngalway.com). You'll be due some sparkle by then.

NYF Dublin
December 31st-January 1st, 2020
See you on the streets of the capital at the turn of the year for music, light shows, and to (possibly) imbibe unwisely, kiss strangers, and promise yourself it'll all be different come morning. nyfdublin.com