Soma Festival

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Soma Festival
Soma Festival logo
Soma Festival
Location(s)Castlewellan, County Down, Northern Ireland
Coordinates54°16′01″N 5°55′59″W / 54.267°N 5.933°W / 54.267; -5.933Coordinates: 54°16′01″N 5°55′59″W / 54.267°N 5.933°W / 54.267; -5.933
Years active6
Inaugurated14 July 2013 (2013-07-14)
Most recent12 July 2017 (2017-07-12) – 16 July 2017 (2017-07-16)
Next event18 July 2018 (2018-07-18) – 21 July 2018 (2018-07-21)
Attendance15,000 (2016)
AreaIreland, Celtic nations, United Kingdom, United States
LeaderTíona McSherry (director)
Organised byThe Soma Castlewellan Group

The Soma Festival (Sanskrit: सोम, or sóma, meaning drink of the Gods, see Soma (drink);[1] Irish: Féile Soma[2]) is an annual music, arts, and cultural festival. The festival includes concerts, musical performances, well-being activities, art exhibitions and stalls, language events, celebrations of food and drink, music workshops, and pub sessions. The festival began in 2013 and takes place in Castlewellan, County Down in Northern Ireland.[3] The festival is directed by Belfast-born singer Tíona McSherry[4][5] and run by a team of volunteers. The Festival Club brings together musicians and festival visitors on a nightly basis.



The festival was established in 2013 with headline performances from The Olllam, Niamh Parsons and the John McSherry Band. Arists Lorcan Vallely and Barry Kerr exhibited at the festival. Glór Uachtar Tíre's Scoil Samhraidh Shéamuis Uí Néill,[6] an annual Irish language weekend became part of the Soma programme and has been included on an annual basis since. In 2014 the festival received support from Down District Council, Ring of Gullion AONB and the Heritage Lottery Fund enabling them to expand their programme. The festival was headlined by Irish singer Cara Dillon,[7] The Olllam and Balkan Alien Sound.

In 2015, the festival was headlined by singer-songwriter Duke Special.[8] Supported by the newly created Newry, Mourne and Down District Council supercouncil, the festival expanded greatly. Performers included Beoga, Moxie, Karen Matheson, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Pauline Scanlon, John Spillane, John McSherry and Dónal O'Connor[8] and an Irish language music and cabaret hosted by RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta presenter Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí.[9] Uilleann piper John McSherry and composer Colin Harper launched their book, Wheels of the World: 300 Years of Uilleann Pipers and piper Paddy Keenan and singer Mary Dillon were among musicians giving workshops.


In 2016 the festival was awarded sponsorship from Tourism Northern Ireland.[10] In that year, the festival featured performances from Lisa Hannigan, Eddi Reader, Dónal Lunny, Flook, Declan O'Rourke and Breaking Trad.[11]

To celebrate NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, the Soma Festival initiated the now-annual Soma Taste Experience,[1] bringing together artisan food and craft beer producers from County Down and around Ireland. Soma Body & Soul became another annual festival feature with well-being professionals offering free and paid activities over two days.[12] The Soma Craft Fair[11] market square was held in Castlewellan's Upper Square, with Soma Kids held in Lower Square. The 2016 Soma Festival was estimated to have attracted 15,000 participants, including more than 200 musicians, artists, well-being practitioners, entertainers and cooks.[3][13]

The 2017 festival took place from 12–16 July of that year.[3]


  1. ^ a b "A tasty line-up". Belfast Telegraph Weekend. Press Reader. 9 July 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. ^ Tomaí, Ó Conghaile (4 April 2014). "NÓS 43 - Aibreán 2014". ós (in Irish). Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "SOMA Festival Gears Up In Castlewellan". Down News. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. ^ McSherry, Tíona. "Tíona McSherry". LinkedIn.
  5. ^ "Latest News - Food and drink won't play second fiddle at traditional Irish music event". Tourism NI. Archived from the original on 2017-01-01. Retrieved 29 April 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. ^ "Scoil Samhraidh Shéamus Uí Néill 2017 (Séamus Ó Neill Summer School 2017)" (in Irish). Glór Uachtar Tire. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Folk singer Cara Dillon reveals songs inspired by emigrants' stories". Irish Post. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b McMillen, Robert. "Soma enchanted evening in Castlewellan". The Irish News. Retrieved 29 April 2017.(subscription required)
  9. ^ "Whats On - July 2017" (PDF). Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
  10. ^ "TEFP2016.17 Awards - Tourism NI" (xls). Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
  11. ^ a b "10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland (July 11 – 17)". Belfast Times. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  12. ^ Calder, Tina (12 July 2016). "Try Something New At The SOMA Body & Soul Festival This Weekend". BAM!. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  13. ^ Clarke, Patrick (July 2016). "Castlewellan 49th Agricultural Show and Soma Festival tremendous successes". Blogspot - Patrick Clarke LLB. Retrieved 29 April 2017.[dead link]

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