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The 21st annual Imagine Arts Festival runs from Tuesday 25th – Sunday 30th October 2022.
This year’s Festival will incorporate The Waterford Writers Weekend
This multi-disciplinary arts festival in Waterford city features an exciting, eclectic and diverse range of artistic events including theatre, music, comedy, visual art, dance, literature, film and children’s events. 



Creative Entrepreneur Sarah Jane Cleary has taken the helm at Waterford’s Imagine Arts Festival. Sarah Jane brings a wealth of experience, innovation and drive to her new role, invigorating the Imagine festival as it celebrates its 21st year in Waterford City.

Sarah Jane, who has years of experience in coordinating people and events was nominated ‘Creative Spirits’ Ambassador in the city, in 2011 she was a ‘Dragons Den’ winner, creating ‘Beauty Team Ireland’ and most recently was known for creating the popular and sorely missed venue ‘The Parlour Vintage Tea Rooms’ here in the city.

“I am honoured to accept the role as Director of Imagine Arts Festival as it celebrates its 21st birthday; it’s an incredible milestone!   Waterford has a great appetite for the arts.

Personally I am fascinated by our port city, its heritage and historical narrative. Every brick and breath from both past and present have an important story to tell.

We are a culturally diverse city where creativity and the arts serve as a universal language; connecting us all by building bridges of understanding, cooperation and fellowship. Our desire is to capture the imagination with an arts programme that blends the classic and contemporary, that will stimulate and inspire across multiple platforms and genres.”

Ollie Breslin, Festival Committee Member added:

“We are delighted to have Sarah Jane at the helm of Imagine Arts Festival and we know that she will help steer the festival in new directions and safely bring it into harbour for October to celebrate our 21st Birthday.”

The Imagine Arts Festival was set up in 2001 by a group of arts workers and arts enthusiasts who felt that the city needed an artistic platform.

Chair of the Imagine Arts Festival, Joe Kelly added:

“We are delighted to have new life injected into the Festival. Sarah Jane is an enthusiastic hard worker and we look forward to a re-imagined festival under her capable guidance this October!”



Imagine Arts Festival is a unique celebration of the arts here in Waterford City. Imagine is a community Arts Festival that is run by a voluntary committee and aims to capture the essence of Waterford’s burgeoning artistic community and give it a national platform and therefore a bigger audience. Our aim is to bring in the best of national and international artistic work and to inspire new ideas and thought within the local community through exposure to such talent and creativity. Imagine promotes both established and emerging artists, from the local, national and international arena.


Imagine was set up in 2001 by a group of arts workers and arts enthusiasts who felt that the city needed an artistic platform. Now in its 20th season, each year Imagine Arts Festival strives to present an exciting, eclectic and diverse range of artistic events which include theatre, music, comedy, visual art, dance, literature, film and children’s events. Imagine is supported by Waterford City and County Council, Failte Ireland and The Arts Council. Imagine also incorporates the Waterford Writers Weekend as part of the festival. Our vision is that Imagine continues to evolve, contributing to the ever growing economic, social and cultural tapestry of the south east.

Past Rock and Folk Music Acts have included: Leon Redbone, The Delines, Kitt Philippa, Ron Sexsmith, Mercury Rev, Waterson Carthy Band, Tim Eriksen, Holly Cooke, Penguin Cafe, Martin Stephenson, Yorkston Thorne and Khan, Bill Ryder Jones, The Unthanks, Billy Bragg, The Wedding Present, John Etheridge, Chris Wood, O Emperor, Andy Irvine, Wallis Bird, Martin Simpson and Peggy Seeger.

Black Dyke - Shane McDonald

Trad Music Acts that have appeared at the John Dwyer Trad Weekend as part of Imagine include: John Dwyer, Castle Ceili Band, Ann Mulqueen, David Power, Liz and Yvonne Kane, Nell ní Chrónín, Dervish, Danu, Buillle, Mairead and Triona Ni Domhnaill, Mairtin O’Connor, Michael McGoldrick, Liam O’Flynn, Paddy Glacken, Noirin Ni Riain. T with the Maggies, Noel Hill, Frankie Gavin, The Kane Sisters, Mick and Aoife O’Brien.

Dance Events: One of the biggest successes in the 20 years of Imagine is the annual Youth Dance Celebration which Imagine organises and makes happen – it sees every youth dance group come together for a showcase event – this includes contemporary, ballet, hip hop etc. For professional dance we have had visits from Cois Ceim, Dance Theatre of Ireland, Ciotog, Genesis Collective and also for the last four years an excellent event bringing young choreographers together to showcase their work. 2019 brought ’24 Hours To Dance’, an exciting impromtu dance event that was a highlight of last years programme!

Visual Artists have included: Ernest Ruckle, Pat Murphy, Hughie O’Donoghue, Robert Ballagh, Tony Ryan, Anthony Pilbro, Janet Pierce, Amanda Coogan, Rosemary Higbee, a Patrick Morrisson retrospective, the Arts Council touring exhibition and Nigel Rolfe.

Comedy Acts who have appeared at Imagine include: Rich Hall, Kevin McAleer, David O’Doherty, Jason Byrne, Abie Philbin Bowman, John Cooper Clarke, Kevin Bridges and David McSavage.

Classical and Brass Classical fans have enjoyed: John O’Conor, Finghin Collins, Eric Sweeney, Bridget Knowles, RTE Vanbugh Quartet, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Black Dyke Brass Band, Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra.

Literature and Spoken Word: In previous years Imagine has included such names as Willy Vlautin, Roger McGough, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Cooper Clarke, Rita Ann Higgins, Joseph O’Connor, Peter Sheridan, Grace Wells, Mark Roper, Thomas McCarthy, Kevin Barry, John Banville and John McKenna.

Childrens events include: Cirkus Inferno, Aesops fabulous foibles and fables, Pignut theatre, Pandemonium Theatre, Storytellers Niall de Burca, Eddie Lenihan, Melissa Baker, music in schools with Tom Kaufman, Roger McGough, Parade of Light, Kite making workshops etc.

Theatre Acts: Imagine has brought some excellent national and touring work incl. Blue Raincoat in 2015 and 2017 and Theatre Royal productions ‘Memory of Water’ a new premiere and the new Opera ‘The Invader’ by Eric Sweeney and Mark Roper. Also individual performers like Donal O’Kelly, Mannix Flynn, John Nee, Katie O’Kelly, Declan O’Gorman etc. Local shows have included plays by Jim Nolan, Pat Daly, Noel Kelly, and a number of writers involved in a youth theatre showcase of new writing called ‘Diversions’ which happened in site specific venues.