Studying festival management and performing arts @ UL

University of Limerick
Festivals are on the curriculum at UL

Students combine arts management, festival development and performing arts on the new MA Festive Arts programme at the University of Limerick.

The MA Festive Arts programme at the University of Limerick gives students the opportunity to study festivals from a number of perspectives. This unique MA combines arts management, cultural policy, creative curating and programming with performance and the study of festival and its role in society. Throughout this year-long programme, students combine academic research with performance development and hands-on, practical management experience. The MA Festive Arts programme is based at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, one of Ireland’s premier academies for performing arts as well as academic research into traditional, contemporary and international music and dance. The presence of the MA Festive Arts at the Irish World Academy extends its remit to include subjects such as curating, festival programming, arts management, as well as developing festival performance and studying festival in different cultural and historical contexts.

The MA programme is based around three key strands, which can be described in brief as ‘produce’, ‘perform’ and ‘reflect’. ‘Produce’ refers to the practical aspects of festival management and development, including curating, programming, production, safety and security, legal requirements, funding, audience development management and artist liaison. ‘Perform’ refers to the development of festival performance, as well as developing performance skills across a range of disciplines. The ‘reflect’ strand, meanwhile, involves exploring and examining the dynamics of different festivals in society, looking at how they are sustained, how people participate in them, and what they mean to different people at different times. While all students engage with these three strands, they have the opportunity to specialise in the strand which best reflects their own career path and development. Therefore, while students can develop their performance practice in the context of festive arts, the MA Festive Arts programme is also suitable for students who want to develop their skills as arts managers, curators, producers or as academics who want to further understand the role of festivity in society. Students do not have to be performing artists to take the programme, but will have the opportunity if they wish to develop different aspects of their work or practice through elective options and independent study modules.

The MA Festive Arts programme is taught by the faculty members of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, giving students the benefit of their experience as performers, artists as well as event producers, academics and curators. Further to this, the MA features a wide range of guest lecturers from the festival industry. These include festival directors and producers, artists performing within festivals and creating and designing spectacle, as well as those involved in crafting cultural policy and making funding decisions for the sector. The presence of these guest lecturers on the course ensures that learning in the classroom is embedded within the realities of festival production and management in the field. A system of optional modules also allows students to choose from a range of subjects in each semester to complement core programme work, including modules in somatics, interdisciplinary improvisation, media technologies for performing arts and arts research, and a seminar module featuring visiting academics on a range of relevant topics each week.

The MA Festive Arts programme is also currently working with Irish World Academy artists-in-residence Fidget Feet Aerial Dance to develop a range of optional modules in aerial dance, giving students a unique opportunity to work with internationally-renowned creative artists in this highly physical, dramatic and breath-taking art form. This collaboration with Fidget Feet is just one of the partnerships developed by the MA Festive Arts in order to build strong links with the festival and festive performance sector. The MA has also developed a strategic link with ISACS (the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle network), and is also a partner with Galway Community Circus on CIRCUS+, an ERASMUS+ research project involving six European partners on developing training for youth and social circus with the Caravan circus research network.

This emphasis on practical experience and industry links is further developed in the internship module, which runs for a six-week period during the Spring semester. During this time, students work with a local, national or international festival or arts organisation in order to gain practical experience and insight into festival management and production. To date, students have undertaken internships at the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Open House Limerick architecture festival, the St. Pat’s for All Festival in New York, with the Irish Street Art, Circus and Spectacle Network and with Limerick Music Generation, among others. Students also work on practical group projects in each semester, producing festive events themselves and in collaboration with other organisations. Last year, for example, the MA Festive Arts students produced a family-friendly street festival as part of the Limerick City of Culture, a devised performance as part of a lunchtime concert series, and a Q&A and performance event with Boz Boorer, well-known band leader with Morrissey and lead singer with the Pole Cats. This year, students have already devised and produced a community arts event to launch an architecture festival, and are working on the production and management of a screen dance film festival in Limerick city. These projects provide invaluable learning experiences for students as they develop their skills as festival and arts managers.

The MA Festive Arts progamme is suitable for graduates who want to build on their undergraduate degree qualifications and expand their knowledge in the field of festival performance or production, event and arts management, as well as professionals who wish to return to university in order to develop or extend their practice or career focus in arts and festival management, performance or production. Recent students have included arts managers who wish to develop their skills and approaches to their work, focusing on festivals and festivity, performers who want to develop their own practice in festival contexts and to gain practical and production skills, and community arts managers who want to expand their range of skills and perspectives in audience development, arts management and festival production. Students at the Academy work and research in a vibrant, welcoming environment, with free lunchtime concerts, regular seminars featuring visiting academics and opportunities to perform and participate.


For further information, please contact the MA Festive Arts programme director, Dr. Niamh NicGhabhann at or visit the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance webpage at


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