Come fleadh with me - Derry set for island's biggest traditional music gathering
Some of the greatest traditional musicians in the world are gearing up for the first Fleadh Cheoil to be staged in Northern Ireland.
Irish President Michael D Higgins will officially launch the music and culture festival on Sunday at 5pm at the Guildhall Square in Londonderry.
The spectacular opening ceremony begins earlier at 3pm with a procession up the River Foyle by a number of traditional currachs.
The boats will herald a pageant that will make its way through the streets of the city towards the Guildhall where musicians Sontas will entertain the crowd with their blend of Irish and Scottish music.
The Derry Comhaltas was adamant that the Protestant community would be at the heart of this year's fleadh – a move welcomed by the Ulster Scots Agency.
Spokesman Gearoid O hEara said: "We want to be able to look back and say that this was something everyone, including the Protestant community, was involved in at the highest level."
Michael McCullagh, director of services with the Ulster Scots Agency, added: "It will be an excellent opportunity to showcase the story of the Ulster Scots through dance, pipe bands, history debates, language seminars and some Lambeg drums from both the Orange and Hibs tradition."
For the duration of the fleadh, which closes on August 18, venues across the city will host a dream team of performers including The Poet And The Piper – a duet between Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney (right) and master uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn.
There's also Cara Dillon and the Orchestra of Ireland; Dervish; Flook; Beoga; Tim Edey; Brendan Power; Liz Carroll; Tim Eriksen; The Campbells; Lorcan Mac Mathuna, and dance spectacular Take the Floor.
A series of lunchtime concerts will also celebrate the richest traditional musical regions in the world.
These will feature the music of Nova Scotia and America with performances by the Troy McGillivray Trio, Liz Carroll and Tim Eriksen, and the Meitheal Orchestra, and music of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with The Campbells.
The University of Ulster's Magee campus will also play host to events when the School of Irish Language and Literature presents two Irish language lectures.
Derry mayor Martin Reilly, who hosts a tea dance at Pilot's Row community centre on Tuesday, August 13, said: "It will be a chance for everyone to come together for craic agus ceoil."
Fleadh chairperson Eibhlin Ni Dhochartaigh said the festival was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some amazing performers. S
he said: "We hope that with the eyes of the world on Derry this year we can celebrate the very best of Irish culture."
History will be made on Sunday when the Fleadh Cheoil – an eight-day celebration of Irish music, dance and culture – opens in Derry, the first city in Northern Ireland ever to play host.
In the 60 years of its history, the fleadh has proved to be a huge economic driver for the host town, depositing in the region of £40m into the local economy.
An estimated 300,000 visitors will come to Derry to hear the 10,000 musicians who will travel from every corner of the globe to play in the festival.