Brendan Hurley: “It was important that we put on some sort of event, no matter how small”

Like so many events over the last few months the 2020 Claremorris Folk Festival fell victim to the Corona Virus pandemic. Mindful of the devastating affect the virus has had on the whole arts sector the people behind the festival were determined to return to hosting live music as soon as it was possible to do so. We spoke to Brendan Hurley, the founder and organiser of the festival, to find out more…

The Claremorris Folk Festival launched last year with an absolute belter of a lineup featuring Seamus Fogarty, Junior Brother and Joshua Burnside. Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started? 

The simple answer is because I love live music and those magical moments that you can only experience at a gig. I started out as a sound engineer before moving into the corporate environment where I worked as a production manager at events all over the world. When I moved back to Claremorris in 2018 I was determined to put the skills I’d picked up on the road to good use and, with the help of Tomas Concannon, Mairead Geehan and the wonderful support of the guys at Claremorris Town Hall, we managed to pull off what turned out to be a very successful inaugural folk festival.

Westport, Castlebar and Claremorris seem to have strong support for local music with some passionate folks involved in bringing great artists to these places – has it always been like this? 

I lived away from Mayo for quite a number of years so I can’t say for sure wither or not it’s always been like this, but what I have seen over the last few years is that guys like Finbar Hoban, Eamonn Mulderring and David Dee Moore do an amazing job in making sure that great artists will always feel at home in Mayo.  

Are there any artists from Mayo you would recommend people check out? 

Joe Monaghan aka Train Room is a brilliant songwriter who I believe has just started recording his debut album. Definitely one to check out. Bury Me With My Money continuously produce what can only be described as wonderful synth-rock anthems! The Zen Yetis and Adrian Murphy are also doing some really interesting work at the moment… I could go on and on…

Perhaps against the odds, you are managing to keep the festival going this year with a reduced lineup and COVID-compliant weekender in October. Was it important to you to make something happen this year and how have you found the experience? Are there any challenges/ solutions you have encountered that might help other event organisers?

Yes, it was really important that we put on some sort of event, no matter how small. I have lots of friends who are musicians, agents, technicians etc. so I’ve seen first hand how people in the industry have been effected by COVID. We were determined to play some small part in providing a chink of light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

In terms of advice, I would say the most important and probably the most obvious thing is stay abreast of the current health guidelines and make sure you have the necessary procedures and systems in place that will allow you to adhere to them. Good lines of communication are also crucially important, a continuous and open dialogue with your ticket holders, the venue and the local authorities is really important to ensure there are no last minute surprises!   

Can you tell us a bit about the lineup for this year’s festival?

Two of the artists, Joshua Burnside and Ultan Conlan played at the festival in 2019 with their full bands and both of them produced stellar performances. We though it would be wonderful to see these guys doing a solo show in a small intimate environment so I was delighted when they agreedto return to Claremorris to perform for us once again.  

I’m a massive fan of Aoife Nessa Frances’ debut album Land of no Junction and Aoife was scheduled to play at our festival in July.  She’ll be performing as a three-piece and I think it’ll be a show not to be missed. And speaking of great albums… Cormac O Caoimh released Swim Crawl Walk Run earlier in the year to great critical acclaim. Cormac has been on our radar for a while now we can’t wait to see if Martin Leahy really can play the bass guitar and the drums at the same time!!

Full details and tickets available at

To comply with government health guidelines there will only be 40 tickets available each night and a range of additional COVID measures will also be in place.

Joshua Burnside and Aoife Nessa Frances will take to the stage in the Dalton Inn on Friday the 23rd of October with Cormac O’Caoimh and Ultan Conlon providing the tunes on Saturday the 24th.

Music from the west of Ireland