Mount Stewart Conversations Festival

  • Home
  • News
  • Mount Stewart Conversations Festival

Mount Stewart Conversations Festival is set to return to the shores of Strangford Lough on 1st and 2nd September 2018. This year’s festival will build on the success of two previous events to offer an unparalleled programme of arts and entertainment.

The National Trust is building on a successful, multi-year partnership with Beyond Skin, to bring a series of exciting international artists and events to Mount Stewart Conversations Festival 2018.
Leading the Beyond Skin programme will be talks and workshops from two critically acclaimed, international musicians: Dave Randall and Justin Adams. This is the first time that either guitarist will give a talk or lead an intimate masterclass for Northern Ireland audiences.

Dave Randall is a musician, writer and activist. He has contributed to Grammy Award winning albums by Dido and toured the world playing guitar with Faithless, Sinead O'Connor, Emiliana Torrini and others. He has released his own critically acclaimed albums under the artist names Slovo and Randall, and composed music for screen and stage. His book Sound System: The Political Power of Music was recently shortlisted for the Bread & Roses prize for radical publishing.  To visit the site dedicated to Dave's work as a guitarist click here.

Dave will deliver an illustrated talk about music and politics, based on his new book: ‘Sound System: The Political Power of Music.’ It's a book of raves, riots and revolution, looking at examples from Beethoven to Beyoncé and poses the question: how can we make music serve the interests of the many, rather than the few? Dave will follow his talk with a quirky workshop called the ‘Rock ‘n’ Sausage Roll Guitar Masterclass.’ You read that right – there will of course be sausage rolls (of the vegan kind) to cater for all rock n roll wanabes.

Joining Dave at the top of the bill will be Mercury Prize-nominated Justin Adams, widely considered to be one of U.K.’s most original guitarists. Justin is known for co-writing The Robert Plant album ‘Mighty Rearranger’ and playing with Plant’s band the Strange Sensation around the world. Working alongside of improvising musicians from the London Musicians Collective, Punk pioneers such as Mark P. and Jah Wobble (with whom he co-wrote 3 albums, one nominated for a Mercury Prize), and trailblazers such as Johnny Marr and Natacha Atlas, he honed his style into a coherent and original whole album on the solo album Desert Road, hailed as a masterpiece by Songlines and Froots magazines.

As a producer he worked with maverick French band Lojo, with whom he met Tuareg guitar band Tinariwen. Together they made Tinariwen's first and third albums which brought Saharan guitar music to the world. Performing at the first and third Festivals of the Desert in Mali were pivotal moments for Adams.

As well as making 3 ground-breaking and award-winning albums with Gambian master musician Juldeh Camara, which created a new  deep trance Afro-Rock and Roll sound, Adams has in the past decade produced and/or co-written with an array of inspirational artists- from Sinead O'Connor to Rachid Taha, from Moroccan Punk Band Hoba Hoba Spirit to Irish singer/songwriter Damien Dempsey. He worked together with Brian Eno on Seun Kuti's most recent album, and with Ludovico Einaudi on the Taranta project, an epic concert and album of 21st century reimaginings of ancient Mediterranean music. 2017 saw the release of his abstract "Ribbons" album , which was nominated by Songlines magazine as a Top Ten album of the year.

At the Conversations Festival Justin will lead a talk on ‘Music in Exile’ and later treat a small group of budding guitarists to a Sahara Blues Guitar Masterclass. This is the first time that Justin has offered NI music lovers a chance to learn from the master.

The Next Village
The theme of the Beyond Skin programme for 2018 will be ‘The Next Village,’ Darren Ferguson, Founder explains: “In the half century or so since the world was first described as a ‘Global Village’ our interconnections with the rest of the planet have become easier and faster. But have we really got to know each other, have we developed a deeper sense of community as a result of these technological changes?

“At Mount Stewart Conversations Festival we are going to try to get to know our new neighbours. Awakening our senses we will creatively explore where global meets local, beginning a conversation with our global neighbours, learning from each other about our place in this shared world to try to gain insight into life in The Next Village.”

The Village Experience at Mount Stewart Conversations Festival will be focused around fluid sensory arts, facilitating natural conversation opportunities and surrounding talks. Some of the one hour experiences on offer include Jamaican Dance and Ukulele Workshops.

The wider festival
Further programme information will be revealed in the coming weeks but safe to say there will be a stellar line-up of acclaimed guests who will engage visitors in debates, performances and talks on a vast array of emotive and inspirational subjects. Visit to find out more.
Access to Mount Stewart will be free but ticketed. Tickets will go on sale in late July 2018. Selected talks will be ticketed and will be available to book in advance. 
Want to get Involved?
As a conservation charity, the National Trust is bolstered by the support of volunteers. Our team turns great events into amazing experiences with the help of volunteers. If you would like to get involved by volunteering at Mount Stewart Conversations Festival, visit

About Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin is an organisation enabling the Arts as the dialogue to assist the development of a more peaceful, equal and intercultural society free from racism & sectarianism.
Beyond Skin activities are part funded by the Northern Ireland Arts Council.

About the National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.  More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.
Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 778 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
More than 24 million people visit every year, and together with 5 million members and over 65,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.
For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: