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Irish Arts Festivals Archive: Clifden Arts Festival

The Clifden Arts Festival

Clifden Arts Festival logo

The Clifden Arts Festival was founded in 1977, due to the vision, passion and ambition of founder Brendan Flynn, his fellow committee members and the entire Clifden community.

 It was the longest running community arts festival in Ireland. 



Brendan Flynn, Founder

Building Connections and Enriching Education

Academics and postgraduates in the College of Arts and Humanities at UCD will be working closely with the archive and forging links with future festival events, in keeping with UCD’s commitment to the preservation of our cultural heritage and the formation of partnerships with individuals and institutions in the field of the arts.

This archive is part of the Irish Arts Festivals Archive in UCD Archives, and also complements UCD’s innovative Irish Poetry Reading Archive.


Bernhard Sanders - creator of the digital archive

Bernhard Sanders, retired sound engineer and freelance photographer, based in Cologne, Germany, first visited the Clifden Festival in the late 1980s. He began recording occasional Festival events in 1996, and building a photographic record.

Plans to build a digital archive emerged in 2008 following discussions between Sanders, Brendan Flynn (Artistic Director/ founder of the Clifden Arts Festival), and John Durning (Visual Arts Curator). Sanders is  assisted by other photographers and participants. When asked what draws him back annually, he speaks of the ‘fascinating environment of Clifden and Connemara, the friendliness of the people, and the quality of the events’.

Bernhard Sanders


The Archive comes to UCD

IAFA Oral History Interview

Read the transcript of an interview with Clifden Arts Festival founder Brendan Flynn in conversation with Danielle Lynch.

Clifden Arts interview booklet cover

The Archive

The Archive is made up of high quality literary, musical and visual materials – including minute books, correspondence, posters, extensive film footage, and original photographs. It charts the history of the Clifden Community Arts Festival, and documents the extraordinary range of writers, musicians and artists featured over the years.

Held under the care of UCD Library,  it allows current and future generations appreciate and better understand this community festival. It reveals the impact it has had on the local community and the region, and film footage and photographs allow the experience of the festival to be enjoyed, and explored, long after the event itself.

The Digital Archive

Where possible, we aim to capture and make available, only where permission is granted by the artists, as many of the Festival's recordings as possible. The UCD Digital Library provides the specialist expertise needed to preserve this important archive for future generations, for scholars and for enthusiasts at home and abroad.

This project, which is unique in its form and extent, does not serve any commercial purpose.

Will you work with us?

In order to make this archive widely available, we are reaching out to writers / artists who have worked with the festival over the last 10 – 15 years, seeking permission to make older recordings available to the public, thus ensuring preservation and access to future generations.

We will ask permission for the right to place recordings, either in their entirety or an excerpt, into the UCD Special Collections YouTube Channel, the UCD Digital Library, with links provided on the Clifden Arts Festival webpage.

We will also be asking artists and writers performing in future festival events to allow their performances be recorded and added to the Clifden Arts Festival Archive@UCD.

Our approach to collecting materials for the archive will be reviewed regularly, taking on board advice from the artists and writers, Clifden Arts Festival Committee, and UCD Library.