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Harmony Live, Holywood – The Little Festival That Grew and Grew

Since its inception, the Holywood Harmony Festival (a.k.a. Harmony Live) has rapidly become a staple on the County Down summer music scene. Now in it’s fifth year, this musical jamboree has grown in size each year and if rumours are to be believed, will dispense with a marquee this year and go fully “outdoors” – a brave move given the North Down climate.

Initially the brainchild of Mari Jackson and her husband Garry (of Garry’s Barbershop in the town) as a way of putting Holywood on the tourist and entertainment map, it has become something much more. The festival is run as a charity and usually takes place on the first weekend in June with it’s home being the rolling pitches of Holywood Rugby Club, just outside the town centre.

In it’s short history, the festival has already displayed a knack of attracting big name British and Irish acts but has always had the savvy to back them up with a roster of talented local performers. Previous festivals have seen the like of The Boomtown Rats, Reef, Toploader, Ulaid and Hothouse Flowers headline one of the three evenings but there have also been stand-out performances from current hot and home-grown tickets like Joshua Burnside, Gareth Dunlop, Ryan McMullan, Rebekah Fitch and undoubtedly the best live band in Northern Ireland right now, The Wood Burning Savages.

This year’s festival promises to be even bigger. On Friday evening the lineup has a distinctly Irish feel to it. Dublin-based rock outfit Aslan headline with support from The Adventures and the always wonderful The 4 Of Us. Saturday night gives us a mighty throwback to 1990’s rock and indie music with Feeder and the one and only Fun Lovin’ Criminals ably supported by local all-girl guitar shredders Dea Matrona.

It’d be a fair guess that when Huey Morgan kicks off the intro to “Scooby Snacks,” the punters watching the Champions League final in the bar will be out on the pitches faster than Mo Salah after a well-timed through ball. Extra time and/or penalties may be disrupted by Feeder lashing into “Buck Rodgers.”

Sunday is likely to be a more poignant affair, with an Alabama 3 acoustic set topping the bill, just over a week after the sudden and untimely death of band member Jake Black. Sunday night’s support acts are the excellent local singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery, retro country-rock outfit Villiers and The Villains as well as The Alexanders.

In another interesting twist, the festival will, for the first time, feature a second, smaller stage which will showcase a number of younger, local artists playing in between the main stage acts. If that isn’t a great example of great value for money I don’t know what is, and, unlike Ward Park 3, you won’t have to queue for 2 hours to get a pint. It also has to be said that the atmosphere at Holywood Live is always warm and welcoming, whether you’re there for one night or for all three.

Gigging NI will be there to provide photos and reviews from all three nights of the festival, and tickets are still available from https://www.harmonyholywood.co.uk/

Photographer and sometime reviewer with an eclectic taste in all things visual and musical. Still struggles to understand jazz.