Drogheda Arts Festival has scored quite the coup. Ireland's first festival of the summer, yes, it begins in May, has secured a string of world class performers to make their only Irish pitstop in Drogheda (droghedaartsfestival.com). And what makes Drogheda special is that not only are these happening once, they are also your only chance to see these performers in Ireland for the foreseeable future. They are not dropping in to Drogheda as part of an Irish tour, these will be their exclusive Irish performances. And that is the coup.
"The way we have decided to grow this festival is through having these carefully selected 'one night only' shows, allowing people to discover the kind of arts experiences you would never expect to find happening in Drogheda, giving audiences something bespoke and entirely exclusive. We are very proud of what we have brought together," explains Drogheda Arts Festival Chair Aoife Ruane.
And proud they should be. This festival offers you the opportunity to spend an evening of revolution with Wayne Kramer, the incendiary guitarist/activist once part of Detroit's influential MC5. This will be your only chance to experience Kraftwerk's Wolfgang Flur, and certainly your only chance ever to experience him in a Drogheda underground car showroom. Flur will actually be performing on one of those large metallic rotating car display units in Western Motors in the M1 Retail Park. Now that's quite the first.
This festival is a labour of love for its teams of volunteers and their investment is a lot more than just a week at the end of April. "We start planning over a year in advance, we have been working hard on getting Wayne Kramer since last July," confirms Aoife. "We have developed important new partnerships with local promoters Thirty Three - 45 and also External Sounds and these are relationships we hope to grow in coming years. But it is thanks to these that we managed to get Wayne and Wolfgang."
Another enduring crucial partnership is with Louth Contemporary Music Society, also known as the brilliant Eamonn Quinn. In the past, Quinn has brought such big names as Philip Glass and Arvo Part to the county of Louth. This year for the festival, he is presenting Kurtág's Ghosts, an otherworldly performance by Italian pianist Marino Formenti. Formenti connects such gentle composers as Purcell and Schubert to the work of Hungarian composer György Kurtág, the music flowing - sometimes beautifully, sometimes violently - over six centuries of piano compositions.
Another key introduction this year is their series of Treasure Trails. There are three on offer, you could take the Boyne Valley Garden Trail with horticulturist Jane McCorkell leading the green fingered enthusiasts into such secret gardens as the 19th century Kiliner House to the Neoclassical Rokeby Hall to the abundance of Barmeath Castle, where you might even be able to feast on their own figs.
There is also a Celtic High Cross tour led by the eminent archaeologist Peter Harbison, who will take you around the 5th century ruins of the Mainistir Bhuite (Monasterboice).
And the third tour is for the hale and hearty, a Drogheda Dawn Chorus, which starts at 5am in the beautiful Edwardian gardens at Listoke. You will be given coffee.
"These tours are very much part of a conscious effort to provide something for everybody. I could see my mother going on the garden tour and then coming back into town to catch some of the street circus with her grandchildren and then on to see the play Kitty in the Lane that evening. We are trying to make sure the local audience have almost too much to choose from and that the nearby audiences will remember that Drogheda is just half an hour from Dublin on the motorway.
"And it is great also to have so much Louth talent involved, to mix the legends in with the local. Performers such as Jaime Nanci, who looks like a rockabilly punk. He's from Dundalk and launched his first album last autumn and is very much exploding on the scene. And Aine Ryan, who has written her first play Kitty in the Lane, a one-woman show about a girl living alone with her ageing father, and Aine will be starring in it herself.
"People want to see as much as possible at festivals, to book something they know they like and to book something they haven't ever heard of but want to take a risk with. This is really the key to what Drogheda Arts Festival is all about, you can reunite with some old favourites and discover the brand new. We want people from near and far to realise how much Drogheda has to offer."