More than just a festival… Yes, we organise a month long music and arts festival in August and the vintage-themed Seaside Revival Festival on Bangor seafront but we also recently opened our very own multi-purpose venue, The Court House. In addition, we promote one-off shows in Belfast on a year round basis and as we are an independent non-profit arts charity, any surplus generated from these events is used towards our community projects.
Open House Festival was established in Belfast in 1999 and moved to Bangor in 2013. It has been organically grown and tenderly looked after by two local people, Kieran Gilmore and Alison Gordon, who are still at the helm.
Our Vision: Placing creativity at the heart of our city’s identity and economy
Our Mission: To create events and experiences that empower people and transform places
Open House is an independent non-profit charitable organisation that runs:
Open House Festival
An annual summer festival in the beautiful seaside city of Bangor, County Down (granted city status in 2022). At the heart of the August Festival is an eclectic programme of lovingly curated bespoke events, including folk on a boat, an island picnic trip, pop-up food events, local interest talks and tours alongside a run of shows in the beautiful Bangor Castle Walled Garden including music, comedy and film, plus free concerts at the bandstand in Ward Park every Sunday… all summer long.
The Court House
A Victorian listed building on Bangor seafront, which we acquired from the NI Courts Service via Northern Ireland’s first ever Community Asset Transfer, and transformed into a permanent venue with support from our generous funders. The Court House opened its doors in October 2022 and now delivers a year-round programme of quality and cutting-edge live music, comedy, film, theatre, spoken word, food & drink events, featuring international artists alongside local creatives, and celebrating Bangor’s rich musical heritage.
A free vintage festival on the seafront, celebrating Bangor’s heyday as a thriving seaside town. Includes a great Bangor tradition – the Pickie to Pier swim.
Year round events
Concerts & events in both Belfast and Bangor – any additional income is re-invested in free events, running costs and projects that create greater social impact.
Our role in Bangor
Our mission is to create events and experiences that empower people and transform places. We believe that music, art, culture and festival events are the regenerative force that will transform Bangor from its seafront dereliction and failed retail sector into a modern seaside city.
Drawing on the unique assets of its coastal setting, thriving community of artists and creatives, Victorian architecture, abundance of pop-up venues and proximity to Belfast, we aim to attract more visitors to Bangor and to make local people proud of their town again.
Director / Programming
Court House Director
Digital Marketing Manager
Plus Caroline McCoubrey, Emma Copeland, Charlene Hegarty & Graham Bingham.
Open House Board
Jonathon Moore – Chair
Johnny is a Chartered Surveyor with 30 years’ experience practising in both public and private sector firms. He specialises in Urban Regeneration projects and is currently busy advising on the new Belfast Grand Central Station and Weavers Cross developments. Johnny developed a passion for live music growing up in Derry. He moved to Bangor 20 years ago and was thrilled to contribute to the Court House restoration project, recognising it’s potential to become Bangor’s premier music and arts venue, as well as a standout example of community led regeneration.
Stephen Dunlop MRICS
A Bangor native and a Chartered Surveyor with more than 30 years’ experience in urban regeneration and place management, Stephen has a passion for contemporary music and pushing the cultural renewal of Bangor City Centre. As a previous Green Party local Councillor he supports grass roots action that embraces diversity and positive change.
Chris is a Bangor resident with a passion for cultural-led regeneration, and considerable experience working across national government and the private sector, as well as leading his own cultural institutions. He is the founder of the Northern Ireland Science Festival and served as its Director for nine years, leading the festival from its conceptualisation to becoming one of the biggest festivals of its kind in Europe. With a keen interest in music, Chris has served on a range of cultural boards, including as chairperson of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Out to Lunch Festival in Belfast. Currently, he is the Culture Development Manager at Belfast City Council, leading the Culture Unit and overseeing the development of the Cultural Strategy (A City Imagining) and the UNESCO City of Music programme.
David is a retired lawyer. He is a keen painter, musician, singer and historian. As Chair of Ards Comhaltas he welcomed 20,000 visitors to Bangor when it hosted the Ulster Fleadh in 2016. He helped establish the annual Columbanus Cross Community Folk Festival and is presently Vice Chair of The Friends of Columbanus. A stalwart of the local folk scene, he is a regular performer at the Court House Saturday session, and this August marks his ninth year on the critically acclaimed Folk on a Boat, which he describes as “a two hour flow of consciousness peppered by local bawdy songs and Bangor’s hidden history”.
Martin is a chartered accountant and tax adviser who spent 30 years with a global accountancy and consultancy firm. He is now (semi-)retired but continues to provide advice through his own boutique tax advisory business. Away from work, Martin has a wife and three grown up children, and a life-long passion for music, history, cycling and ornithology. He is originally from England but has made Bangor his home for the last 27 years.
Patricia is a qualified occupational psychologist whose main interests are in employee engagement, people development, organisational effectiveness and leading change. She has been involved in providing organisational consulting for more than 20 years for local start-ups through to global companies. She is passionate about community development, music and the arts and has been an Open House Festival volunteer for more than 10 years. Patricia is inspired by the incredible work of the dedicated staff and volunteers at Open House who are making such a difference for our community and is delighted to be on the Board.
Rachel Edwards is a strategist, storyteller, and critical thinker. She is currently employed by the Strategic Investment Board, where her primary role is creating and connecting narratives to solve problems, and shape better experiences for people.
An experienced marketing and communications professional, and certified change management practitioner, Rachel has developed a wide range of strategic campaigns throughout the UK and Ireland, building brands across public, private and voluntary sectors to drive social, economic, and environmental change.
Sarah Jones has worked in the arts and culture sector for almost 20 years. She started at the British Council Northern Ireland, with event management roles at a range of festivals, organisations and venues including Young At Art, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Culture Night and Stendhal. For 13 years she ran The Black Box – an independent arts venue in central Belfast – and is now Director of the Northern Ireland Science Festival.
Stephen brings creative and branding strategic insights, drawing on 30+ years’ experience with some of NI’s leading advertising agencies and best known campaigns. He is Managing Director of krow Ireland, a Fellow of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Past Chair of the NI Group IPA with a seat on the National Council in London, and currently sits on the Council of the NI Chamber of Commerce. Stephen is passionate about Bangor, and is a Committee member of North Down Cycling Club – but don’t hold that against him.
Tim has 25 years’ experience in hospitality and is currently Operations Manager for the multi-award winning Beannchor Group, one of the most highly respected businesses in Northern Ireland. His skills include business management, venue operations and event organisation, and he has a particular eye for identifying gaps in the market. Tim is a keen gig and festival-goer with excellent taste in music. He grew up in Bangor and currently lives in Belfast. But we’re working on it…
Our small team depends on volunteers to help us deliver Open House Festival events, by assisting with ticketing, seating, event set-up, litter picking, and many other vital duties. They help to create a happy, welcoming environment and carry out their responsibilities with pride and huge smiles on their faces.
For the second consecutive year, our Festival Volunteer Programme is sponsored by the beautiful Clandeboye Lodge hotel complex on the outskirts of Bangor. If you’re at an Open House event this summer, you will see our volunteers wearing their 2023 t-shirts and hi-vis jackets with the Clandeboye Lodge logo emblazoned on the back. Say hello, give them a thumbs up, ask them for assistance if you need it. They’ll do their best to help.
Over the last 25 years of Open House Festival we’ve been lucky enough to welcome some fantastic artists and performers including, but not limited to:
The Specials, Public Image Ltd, John Grant, Father John Misty, Mercury Rev, Midlake, Villagers, Snow Patrol, Sleaford Mods, The Staves, The Waterboys, Foy Vance, Hannah Peel, Steve Earle, The Damned, Bonnie Prince Billy, Lisa Hannigan, Sun Kil Moon, Joan Armatrading, Lloyd Cole, Iron & Wine, Lord Huron, Martha Wainwright, Happy Mondays, The Low Anthem, King Creosote, Mumford & Sons
Sir Michael Parkinson, Ian Rankin, John Lydon, Alan Johnson, Kerry Danes, Martin Bell, Wayne Hemingway, John Boyne, Lucy Caldwell, Noddy Holder, Mike Scott, Helen Pankhurst, Glen Matlock, Alexei Sayle, Bernard Mclaverty, Colin Bateman