Harps Alive | An Chruit Bheo | Harps Leevin 2024

On Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June 2024, CÉHI and Reclaim the Enlightenment hosted Harps Alive | An Chruit Bheo | Harps Leevin festival. 

Harps Alive (Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin), now in its third year, is a cross border collaborative festival, which brings together the finest harpers from across the island and abroad to celebrate the iconic 1792 Belfast Harp Festival.  

Festival 2024 celebrates Ireland’s close harping connections with Scotland, the ancient repertoire preserved by 17th and 18th century Irish and Scottish harpers, and shows new directions for harping through a dynamic series of cross-community and cross-border harp events. All facets of harping were heard in all corners of the city last weekend! 


The Lord Mayor of Belfast opened the Harps Alive | An Chruit Bheo | Harps Leevin festival in St George’s Church, where Edward Bunting himself was organist from 1817 – 1819. Exploring themes of connection between our Irish and Scottish harping traditions, the concert featured Éadaoin Ní Mhaicín, Gráinne Hambly and William Jackson, and renowned fiddle and harp duo, Catriona McKay and Chris Stout. 


Ciara Taaffe brought a beautiful selection of music to bilingual community hub Caife Ceoil in Áras Mhic Reachtain on Friday afternoon. 

Saturday saw a series of workshops, lectures, pop-up performances and recitals lighting up the city with the sounds of harping. 

Katy Bustard and Mairéad Comer delivered two interactive fun harp workshops for children and families in the Shankill Road Library and Culturlann McAdam Ó Fiaich. Children heard stories and legends of Irish harping and even got the chance to try the harp for their first time.

William Jackson, renowned Scottish harper and bouzouki player,  told audiences more about our close harping connections with Scotland, and in particular the stories of the two Rory Dall harpers. Afterwards, locals and tourists had an opportunity to try out the early Irish harp with Aoibheann Devlin and reimagine the sounds of the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival.





Harper, singer, musical director and examiner, Tanya Houghton, gave a masterclass in pedal harping to emerging young harpers before her spellbinding performance in the First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street.

2 Royal Avenue, a cultural hub in Belfast, saw performances by the Derry Harp Ensemble and The Colmcille Harp Ensemble, and later in the afternoon, Lucia McGinnis performed at Reclaim the Enlightenment’s Manifestation at the Assembly Rooms.


A busy day ended with Irish harp workshops with Gráinne Hambly and William Jackson, who guided two groups of harpers through our almost 1000-year old repertoire. 

Throughout the week, harpers Sharon Carroll, Mairéad Comer and Ciara Taaffe shared the history of the harp with students from schools around Belfast in interactive Hands on Harps workshops. 

CÉHI would like to thank the Arts Council, Heritage Council, Belfast City Council and the Cooperation with NI Scheme for their support.

Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin will continue later this year on Friday 13th September in Drogheda, and Saturday 14th September in Dublin.