All systems are go for the Letterkenny Folk Festival

Deputy Mayor of Letterkenny Cllr. Kevin Bradley pictured at the press conference to announce details of the Forthcoming Letterkenny Folk Festival pictured with Shiloe Kelly, Manager at the Station House Hotel Festival Committee including Chairman, Johnny Joe Mc Column, and committee members Dunkan Bartley, Paddy Kelly and Margaret Tonner. Photo Brian McDaid.

It was an international event that attracted high profile names and thousands on to the streets of Letterkenny – now the town’s Folk Festival is being revised to mark the 50th anniversary of the original.

After months of preparation and organisation, a newly formed committee is busy finalising the programme for the festival which will run from Thursday evening, August 22nd, through to Sunday 25th.

And it’s a programme that will do full justice to its predecessor.

Former Eurovision Song contest winner, Charlie McGettigan, will perform the official opening of the revised festival at An Grianan Theatre on the Thursday at 7.p.m.

It will launch a series of events that will, in the words of chairperson, Johnny McCollum, “have the town buzzing” from one end of the weekend to the other.

Some of the top acts in the music industry have been pencilled in to perform on the festival gig rig while the international element will be evident with the presence and performances of Russian, Polish and Indian dancers.

The idea for a revival of the Folk Festival took hold earlier in the year as groups of local people wondered how to mark that 50th anniversary. And how better than to bring the event back to life again?

The Letterkenny Heritage Group had been one of the organisations planning to mark the half century since the launch of the first Folk Festival and got together with two other enthusiasts, local councillor, Ciaran Brogan, and Paddy Kelly, to put ideas into action.

The plan to hold a festival was quickly given the seal of approval and since last April the committee has been involved in putting together a programme that promises quality entertainment and fun.

Among the acts performing on the Friday night of the festival are Rory & The Island along with the Dublin City Ramblers, who like Charlie McGettigan, took to the stage on respective years during the original Letterkenny Festival.

On the Saturday night, the gig rig will feature the highly acclaimed Johnny Brady and Jim Devine while the former frontman of Skid Row, one of Ireland’s most popular bands from the past, Brush Shiels will make a welcome return to a Donegal stage.

And apart from the appearance of the international dancers on the streets – outdoor venues will include the County Library, Market Square, the Post Office, the Old Courthouse, and the theatre, - also stepping into view will be the husband and wife pairing, Frank and Eileen Sweeney, whose Irish dancing routines have enthralled audiences including those at the Letterkenny Memories nights.

Other events packed into the weekend programme include a walking tour of Letterkenny with members of the Cathedral Quarter, a town treasure hunt on the Friday, and a busking festival on the Saturday from 11.a.m. to 2.p.m.

On the Sunday, the competitive element continues with the Festival Road Relay Races, to be hosted by the Letterkenny Athletic Club from 10.a.m. at the Pearse Road.

And want to climb up on your soap box? Then get out the necessary materials and enter your own for the Soap Box derby which will run – and possibly not! – from 2.p.m. at the Port Road,

The St Eunan’s G.A.A. club will, meanwhile, also on the Sunday host a family fun day at the O’Donnell Park which will feature a whole range of activities including adult and childrens’ races, a fancy dress competition, arts and craft events, animal farm, Glamorous Granny and Trendiest Granda, and much more besides.

One of the many popular features of the original Folk Festival was the pub singing competition and this has also been earmarked into the programme of events.
Sponsorship for the festival has been generated through the Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, local councillors, and the vintners.

Among the organisations involved include the Community Development Project, the Cathedral Qiuarter, the Heritage Group, the Letterkenny Historical Society, the Letterkenny Youth Club, local community representatives and business concerns.

Honorary President of the new festival committee, Sally Blake, who will host an exhibition of old Festival photographs and memorabilia at the Donegal County Museum on the Friday evening of the event, has hailed the revival as a tribute to the forerunner.

“It’s great to see another festival being organised after all these years. The International Folk Festival used to pack the town out and I’m sure this new version will also get big crowds attending.”

A special meeting of the festival committee will take place in the Station House Hotel on Monday night next commencing at 8.p.m.

“We would welcome as many as possible to come along as we are looking for volunteers to help out during the festival,” chairperson McCollum indicated.

Letterkenny International Folk Festival opening from years ago at the Market Square in Letterkenny
(L to R) County Manger, Frank Maloney
Festival Director, Cllr. Tadgh Culbert
Artist, Derek Hill and MEP, Neil Blaney
Pic. B.McDaid