The Australian Celtic Festival
About the Festival
The Australian Celtic Festival is renowned as the premier Celtic event of New South Wales. It is the only Celtic-themed festival in Australia to recognise different Celtic Nations each year and have the unique atmosphere of being located at the nationally acclaimed Australian Standing Stones. The Festival is held from Thursday through to Sunday over the first weekend of May each year. In 2024, the Australian Celtic Festival will be held 2-5 May and highlight the Celtic nations of Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Come and experience this unique festival in the spectacularly colourful autumn that is a highlight of our cool New England climate. Over the four days, there are close to 200 individual events and attractions. The township of Glen Innes comes alive with Celtic window displays and themed experiences. The Thursday night ‘100,000 Welcomes Concert’ gives a taster of the weekend’s performances and non-stop entertainment. Alongside music and dance, the program includes official Celtic ceremonies, a street parade, re-enactment groups, Highlands games, Kirking of the Tartan, massed pipe bands, Celtic Cultural Awards, Celtic Dance Championships, a children’s marquee with entertainment and activities, animal displays, boutique stalls including themed food and beverages, poet’s breakfast, souvenirs, merchandise, and so much more.
The Australian Standing Stones hold a significant connection with Celtic people past and present. Erected in 1992 to acknowledge the contributions to Australia made by settlers and descendants from the Celtic homelands to our nation’s culture, these stones form a calendar, not unlike the stones raised by the agricultural Celtic ancestors to mark the changing of seasons.
Throughout the world stone circles are shrouded in mystery and wonder. Although we know the origin story for the Australian Standings Stones, at almost 30 years of age they have formed their own traditions and mystique and are the perfect setting for Celtic ceremony and celebration.
The site at Centennial Parklands, Glen Innes also houses Crofters Cottage, a replica ‘taigh dubh’ (black house) and our very own Excalibur sword. You will also find the Celtic Family Wall with stones from Celtic homelands donated by individuals, families, clans and societies along with other sites of cultural significance including Tynwald Hill and the Hill of Tara.
The Australian Celtic Festival operates on a three-year cycle recognising six Celtic Nations; 2022 Wales, Cornwall and Brittany, 2023 Scotland and 2024 Ireland and Isle of Man.
Wales, Cornwall and Brittany share in common their Brythonic languages. They are the remaining Celts of western Britain, some moving across the channel to Brittany. All three homelands share a bond in holding national Eisteddfod festivals.
Scotland is a strong Nation with a proud history and very popular with Australian Celtic Festival attendees as a unique theme. Our town is named after Major Archibald Innes, born in Scotland. With all the cultural colour and spectacle, Scotland will remain a standalone Nation.
Ireland and Isle of Man share cultural similarities and heritage in having Gaelic languages and traditions. While the Nations will be combined, the Festival will ensure that all honoured Nations are celebrated through ceremonies, performer selection themes and gourmet food.
Other Nations of course have Celtic history and the Australian Celtic Festival continues to recognise all Celtic heritage within this new format.
Events Around Town
During festival week, there are many fringe events, free and ticketed, happening around Glen Innes Highlands, including history and cultural symposiums, music gigs at various venues, art exhibitions and much more adding to the atmosphere of festival week and the Celtic experience.
Many of these events are facilitated independently, however events like the Street Parade and 100,000 Welcomes Concert are part of the Official ACF program. We’ll be sharing the most up to date information on events happening around town through our program page and promoting events through the Australian Celtic Festival Facebook Page.