I Looked East & I Looked West festival

‘I Looked East and I Looked West’ was the title given to a celebration of the life and music of Julia Clifford, held in Stowmarket, Suffolk, UK on 26th-28th April 2019.

We hoped this event would bring together those who knew Julia in Ireland, London and East Anglia, as well as many musicians who were influenced and inspired by her playing, and it exceeded our expectations!

We produced a detailed and classy souvenir programme (below) to mark the event. If you would like one, please email us via the Contact page.

There’s also a selection of photos here now – do have a look!


Who was Julia Clifford?

Julia (1914-1997),  was a wonderful fiddle player born into a musical family in Lisheen, Co. Kerry, in an area known as Sliabh Luachra (the rushy mountains), renowned for its poets and traditional musicians. Through seminal recordings made in the 1970s, Julia and her brother Denis Murphy helped define what is now a well-known genre of Irish traditional music.

Julia and her husband John Clifford, also a musician, had been living in London since the 1940s, but shortly after the recordings came out, they moved out to Thetford in Norfolk, and as far as publically available information goes, they all but disappear from view. However, this period, and especially after 1981 when John died, was actually a busy period of music-making for Julia, with a younger generation of enthusiasts and a new audience on the English folk scene.

The photographs displayed at the festival are now published here online, together with a biography of Julia Clifford – start here!

Why Stowmarket?

Julia visited Stowmarket and surrounding villages on many occasions, having close friends here and many fans. Some of us still get together and play her tunes in pub sessions in the town, and this is where the idea for a commemorative event was born. Over the years we’ve built up a good reputation for organising traditional music events here and have good relationships with lots of organisations and businesses within this friendly market town, including the ever-important pubs!

What happened at the event?

Well, there was a fantastic line-up of guests who were all very keen to be involved!  Julia’s son Billy Clifford (flute), Matt Cranitch (fiddle), Jackie Daly (accordion), Bryan O’Leary (accordion), Gerry Harrington (fiddle), Jerry O’Reilly (set dance) Aoife Ni Chaoímh and Paudie O’Connor (fiddle and accordion) and Connie O’Connell and John Coakley (both fiddle-players), all travelled over from Ireland, supported by many wonderful English musicians.

In addition, several highly respected musicians from Sliabh Luachra came over of their own accord, and we were delighted that several members of Julia’s family, including both her sons and a grandson, plus a niece and great-nieces were able to join us.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive also attended the festival and recorded it for their archives, as part of their project to record aspects of the Irish musical disapora.

Events included concerts, talks and presentations, workshops, set dancing, CD launch, photographic exhibition,  archive film show, pub session trail and a visit to Julia’s grave.

There’s a review from East Anglian online folk music magazine, Mardles, here.

We still have some souvenir programmes from the event, which include several photographs and a brief biography. If you would like one, please email via the Contact page.

In the future

Many people have asked us if we will run this festival again, and the answer is no – the aim was always to have a one-off event, and this certainly made for a really special atmosphere. The organisers are incredibly pleased that everyone thought it was so good they’d like it to happen again and we thank everyone for their compliments.

Come along to one of our Sliabh Luachra sessions in Stowmarket – they’re frequent but not regular, so drop us an email if you’re interested (the address is on the postcard image at the top of this page).

It is intended to make the photographic display and film available in Ireland in the future, and the photographs will be lodged with the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Update 24th April 2020: The photographs displayed at the festival are now published here online, together with a biography of Julia Clifford – start here!

Thank you to our donors, sponsors and partners

A huge thank you to all those individuals who made a donation to support the event, and also to:

New website of Julia Clifford’s music launched during the weekend

During the weekend, Caroline and Michael Kilbane launched a new website, The music of Julia Clifford. It contains sound files and transcriptions of many of Julia’s tunes,  from private recordings made by the Kilbanes in 1980s, when they played regularly with Julia. A fantastic resource with a lovely personal touch.