ONE of the most exclusive events in Cumbria each year is the Ireby Festival, and almost half of the tickets have already been sold ahead of its May return.

Traditionally a folk festival, the event - now in its 16th year - takes place in small intimate venues around the village, with a main stage venue restricted to just 650 people.

Some of the main names to appear on May 25 and 26, 2018, were announced ahead of the tickets going on sale back in September. Now the line-up is more or less complete, with some major names from across the UK set to appear.

Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band had already been confirmed as a headliner, following a starring appearance at the Womad festival this summer. Her fiercely beautiful fiddle playing and mesmerising live performances have influenced a whole generation of young musicians.

The Bella Hardy Band are another high-profile name to appear. The singer-songwriter has opened tours for Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter, and is one to watch in 2018.

Scottish four-piece Tide Lines are another up and coming act, heavily influenced by the traditional music of the West Highlands and Islands, but whose highly eclectic sound is driven by acoustic and electric guitars, with drums and keyboards.

One of the international names on the bill is Canadian folk powerhouse pair The Small Glories - a dynamic duo lauded for their tight harmonies, authenticity, visceral live performances and equally well-matched guitar prowess.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan are one of the best-known and most experienced folk duos on the British circuit today, so will undoubtedly be one of the highlights at Ireby Festival, as will BBC Radio 2 favourites and international folk festival regulars Flats and Sharps.

The highly-rated solo artist Luke Jackson appears on the line-up, having recently toured with Grammy Award winner Amy Wadge, and one of the most promising acts from the Celtic Connections tour, Blue Rose Code, are also confirmed.

Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage, The Jake Leg Jug Band, Claire Hastings Band, Kelly Oliver, Edgelarks, 4Square, Lucas and King, Elaine Davidson, The Tea Cups, Breeze and Wilson, The Black Guards, and Oka Vanga complete the live line-up.

Over the years, Ireby Festival has developed a reputation of sell-outs, so booking tickets early is a must.

For more information, visit www.irebyfestival.co.uk