Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival moves to Tullamore

Longford town will not host this year’s Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival after organisers announced that they are to move the event to Tullamore. In what will be a devastating blow to the local economy, the organisers said the event could not be financially sustained in Longford.

Longford town will not host this year’s Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival after organisers announced that they are to move the event to Tullamore. In what will be a devastating blow to the local economy, the organisers said the event could not be financially sustained in Longford.

Celebrating its tenth year in Longford town last September, there had been doubts raised about the festival in the weeks that followed. Those doubts were confirmed when the organisers, Kathy Casey and Chris Keenan, said last October that no decision had been made about whether the festival would return to Longford in 2012.

Those fears were realised in a statement to the Leader yesterday evening when it was announced that the festival would no longer take place in Longford. One of the main reasons behind their decision to relocate to Tullamore was the financial support.

“It is with regret that the festival can no longer be financially sustained within the town,” said the statement from the organising committee of the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival.

The statement continued, “The move marks the end of a decade of national/international music and visitors from all over the world to Longford each September. We hope that the people of Longford have enjoyed the festival as much as we have enjoyed sharing it with them.

“The organising committee wish to express their gratitude to the local businesses and concert-goers who supported the festival throughout the years, without which the festival could never have taken place nor have lasted for so many years.”

Rumours about the future of the festival surfaced in the lead up last year’s event, and it’s believed that other towns, like Cavan and Mullingar, were considered as possible locations for the event before Tullamore was eventually decided upon.

The news of its relocation to Co Offaly will come as a major blow to Longford town and the surrounds. The event, in its ten-year history, generated several millions for the local economy.

The festival started in Longford back in 2002, following the death of legendary banjo player Johnny Keenan. A tribute concert to mark Johnny’s passing in 2000 was held in Vicar Street, Dublin and it was then decided to hold a festival in Longford, where Johnny and his wife Chris had set up home.

In the ten years that followed, some of the biggest names in bluegrass, Irish traditional and folk music played in the Longford Arms Hotel, including Steve Earle, Gerry O’Connor, Guy Clark, Peter Rowan, Tony Trischka, Altan, Rodney Crowell, Iris DeMent, Thom Moore and the legendary Earl Scruggs, the musician noted for perfecting and popularizing a three-finger banjo-picking style that is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music.

More reaction to the decision later this week on this website an in next week’s Longford Leader newspaper on Wednesday.