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World’s first Irish wake festival to take place in Mayo

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The world’s first-ever festival dedicated to the ancient tradition of the Irish wake is set to take play in County Mayo on May 18. 

The Keening Festival will take place in the old convent in Mulranny on Saturday, May 18, with free walks, keening workshops, and talks about the origins of the Irish wake. 

The festival will also include an evening concert featuring acclaimed sean nós singer Caitriona Ní Cheannabháin, poet and BAFTA winner Kevin Toolis, and violinist Lisa Fuk’u’da.

World-renowned composer Peter Reynolds has also written several original songs for a separate outdoor concert that will take place at midday at Mulranny Pier commemorating the Irish Famine. 

Festival organizer Kevin Toolis, author of “My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love and Die”, said it is important to celebrate the ancient traditions of the Irish wake. 

The wake remains a defining feature of Irish society, a unique powerful tool which eases the grief and sense of loss many feel with the death of their loved ones. It is only right that at last we recognize and celebrate these ancient rituals and rites in what is the world’s first wake festival,” Toolis said in a statement. 

After the outdoor concert, a number of keening and sean nós workshops will take place in Mulranny to allow people to learn about the ancient art of the Irish wake. 

Keening is a traditional form of vocal lament that took place at ancient wakes in Ireland. 

“Across the world, people always say the Irish do death well and that is because of the wake. So it’s great to be working with Mulranny Arts and Home to Mayo to create the world’s first wake festival here at home in Mayo, where the wake is still going strong,” Toolis said. 

Be sure to check out IrishCentral’s community-built memorials page, in partnership with Chaptr, which puts a modern twist on the Irish wake. 

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