The Westport Arts Festival was founded in 1975
"for the purpose of bringing the best of Musical and Dramatic Entertainment to the town for one week concurrent with an exhibition of Art Works - the latter to be arranged with James White of the National Gallery".
The first festival from 3 to 20 July 1976 was officially opened by Rev Dr Cunnane Archbishop of Tuamand the committee chairman was Patrick Durcan.
Among those taking part in the 1976 festival were:
Frank Patterson and Geraldine O'Grady
The New Irish Chamber Orchestra.
Other events included:
An art exhibition
A Great Irish Portraits exhibition
Contemporary Irish Cinema (arranged by Irish Film Society)
A lecture and exhibition on the writings of George A Birmingham.
We are very grateful to the sponsors without whom the fesival couldn't have began:
Guinness Group Sales
Ireland West Tourism
Zhivago Club Dublin
and local businesses
In 1977 St Patrick's Drama group put on 'General John Reagan' and the festival was again held in July as it was in 1978.
1979 was a General Election year, there was a postal strike and papal visit, it was also the year when it was decided to move the festival to September where it has remained ever since.
Our current chairperson is Michele O'Malley. Past incumbents have been: Andrew Beatty; Peter Hayden; Sadie Higgins; Patrick Durcan; Liam Lyons; Michael Murphy; Peter Shanley; Padraic Duffy; Finola Cummins and Aileen Keogh. The late John Jeffers was president.
It has been the policy of the committee to encourage local artists and bring to Westport both Irish and international acts and artists of the highest standard. Were it not for the generous support of our sponsors the cost would be prohibitive.
We are very grateful to the Arts Council, Mayo County Council and Westport Town Council for all their support.