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Tele Recommends: Northern Ireland's best music festivals

Ralph McLean is an award-winning freelance writer and broadcaster. Every Wednesday to Friday evening between 8 an 10pm, he presents The Ralph McLean Show, an eclectic mix of music and chat on BBC Radio Ulster.

Asked to name Northern Ireland's five best music festivals, he recommends...

Guinness Blues On the Bay

Festival Warrenpoint

Every May

A beautiful setting, five full days of red-hot rhythm and blues and Van Morrison as headliner... what's not to love? Put simply, Blues On The Bay is a dream come true for those who crave the sound of live blues in all its many wondrous forms. Organiser Ian Sands has a lifelong passion for the music, he even plays a mean harmonica with festival regulars The Blues Kats, and for 16 years now he's been bringing the biggest international names and the brightest local talent together in the town's many venues. 2014 looks like being the best yet.


Open House Festival, Belfast and Bangor

Every June/August

Time was when this rough and ready celebration of all things trad and roots was based firmly in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. These days it splits its time between the city and Bangor and its events across different parts of the year but the remit remains the same. Great roots music both local and international, the rawest redneck Americana and the finest cutting-edge singer songwriters.


City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival

Every May

Few cities know how to throw a musical party quite like Derry and the whole place just hums with excitement every May as the Jazz and Big Band Festival roars into view. Hundreds of performers, more than 60 venues and a range of jazz that lurches from trad to modern with all stops in between, it's simply an event that just has to be sampled in person to be fully appreciated.



Custom House Square

Every August

Not so much a traditional music festival as a run of bespoke musical events, Belsonic (above) has brought some of the biggest names in music to Custom House Square in recent years. From blue chip acts like Tom Jones and Paul Weller to indie darlings such as The Flaming Lips and dance gurus like David Guetta the brand has delivered some of the biggest nights in Belfast. Be warned though, the dance stuff sells out in seconds.


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