Billboard posters were torn from their moorings, flags strained on poles, branches waved like a furious Italian, hats rolled down the street – yes, the force of nature that is Niamh Dunne was in town today to play as part of the Out to Lunch festival in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

Limerick-born Niamh, best-known as a member of good-time trad combo Beoga, has released a superb solo album Portraits ( and the lunchtime audience got to hear tracks from the collection, from Richard Thompson’s Strange Affair to the Jacobite song, Ballyneety’s Walls which tells of Sarsfield’s men destroyed William’s siege train on its way to Limerick in 1690.

Typical of Irish folk songs, the tune is familiar but the lyrics give it its local and power and meaning.

“1690’s not too long ago,” said Niamh as laughter rippled through the Black Box. “What are yez laughing at?” she asked.

Another highlight of the gig was the Irish language song, Jimmy Mo Mhile Stór with superb accompaniment by fellow-Beoga member Sean Óg Graham and double bass player Trevor Hutchinson.

Niamh’s repertoire is firmly nestled in her native Limerick, with songs like Cailiín Rua, Sean McCarthy’s Shanagolden, and there’s a song on the album called The Beauty of Limerick, a song that reminds that the city and county aren’t all Rubberbandits and Willie O’Dea.

I love to hear local songs played outside their natural environs, Limerick songs in Belfast, Antrim songs in Galway, Conamara sean-nós in Bangor. The local really is universal.

The trio also gave us a number of rousing instrumentals including a couple composed by Sean Óg himself for what was a storm of a gig.

There is always a bit of Americana in Niamh’s repertoire and she finished off with Joe South’s 1969 hit Games People Play which got the lunchtime audience in good voice.

Oh, and a big word of praise for the great food served up  thanks to Hadskis – the chowder was scrumptious and there was a vegetarian option too! Carlsberg mightn’t do lunches but Hadskis and the Out do Lunch festival certainly do.

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