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Derry's Celtronic Festival hosts impressive line-up in 17th year

Derry's Celtronic Festival hosts impressive line-up in 17th year

It’s one thing to start an electronic music festival in a small city on the periphery of Europe, but it’s another to keep it going for nearly two decades.

Now going into its 17th year, the Celtronic Festival in Derry may be small, but it can boast an impressive line-up of both local and international acts. Festival director Gareth Stewart explained:

“We wanted to start a festival that accessible to everyone – even people who were without a job or on the dole. It was then that the festival scene exploded and ticket prices went through the roof but we’ve kept ours low every year.”

Although he has a background in cultural programme and festival organisation, Gareth, and the rest of the Celtronic team, work on a volunteer basis. This is, he guesses, the secret to Celtronics longevity. 

“We’re not focused on profit or money. Everyone involved is a volunteer so we’re not looking for wages or payment.”

There are several surprising things about Celtronic, not least the line-up. You wouldn’t expect an event that musters only 4,000 over its duration to attract electronic heavy hitters such as The Black Madonna, Ben Ufo and Carl Craig. Celtronic never neglects its roots though. You might not expect workshops and showcases at an electronic dance festival but there are plenty. There are daytime gigs, bringing music to a younger audience and of course, local acts are on the bill. Ryan Vail and OR:LA to name just a couple. 

Another of Celtronic’s secrets is to make use of the unique landscape of Derry itself. An old city full of unique buildings provides a quirky backdrop for the music. 

“We based Celtronic on Sonar, a festival in Barcelona. It focused on the best electronic music in the world, of all forms and genres. We also wanted to bring music beyond the traditional pubs and clubs to where it shouldn’t be – open spaces, historic buildings. We like the clash of the futuristic music meeting buildings of the past. There are some stunning buildings in this city,” said Gareth. 

So this June you’ll find gig-goers dancing to futuristic tunes at the Victorian St Columb’s Hall, the space where Emmeline Pankhurst spoke more than 100 years ago. Or rocking the night away in the home of the Derry and Strabane District Council, the Guildhall. 

Gareth explained: “We’ve been going for 17 years now and I think keeping the line-up fresh has really helped – you don’t want the same acts every year. We’re able to offer them something different.  Acts that normally play in front of crowds of 10-20 thousands but we’re putting them in venues that play about 900. I think they like to play an intimate venue where they can see the whites of the audience’s eyes.”

“You’re only as good as your last festival so it’s all about what the audience thinks of what we put together. As the years go on it becomes more important to keep doing things the way we do them.”

For Gareth, Celtronic isn’t so much about Derry on the map but putting music into people’s hearts. 

“I like to think that there’s a 15 year-old in their bedroom right now making electronic music who will see at the festival that someone else from here is still making that music and doing it all over the place. If that inspires people to keep making music then we’re doing something right,” he said. 
Celtronic will take place at various venues around Belfast from Wednesday, June 28 to Sunday, July 2. For tickets and information visit