Northern Ireland Somme Centenary Festival of Remembrance ‘Sold Out’ as Aled Jones prepares to take centre stage

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, is joined by a WW1 soldier to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.Pic by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, is joined by a WW1 soldier to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.Pic by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography

The Northern Ireland Battle of the Somme Centenary Festival of Remembrance takes place in Carrickfergus this Friday, with acclaimed vocalist, Aled Jones topping the bill at this sold out event.

A capacity audience of as many as 4,000 people is expected to gather in the shadow of the historic Carrickfergus Castle to remember the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago to the day.

This three-hour spectacular free concert will mark the service and sacrifice of Irish soldiers during the bloody Battle of the Somme.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, is urging those attending to use the two Park and Ride facilities that will be open from 5pm, or public transport.

“People should park at either the Ulster University, Jordanstown or at Woodburn Playing Fields, Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus and take the short bus ride right to the gates of the concert,” said Cllr Wales.

The first bus will leave for the concert site at approximately 5.30pm and will accommodate people who want to bring foldable chairs and even picnic baskets.

If using public transport, Carrickfergus train station is just a short seven minute walk from the venue.

The Mayor said: “This event is a fitting way to mark the service and sacrifice of so many, both from across the Borough and beyond, who went ‘over the top’ on that first day – and subsequent months - of the bloody Battle of the Somme.

“I hope everyone will enjoy the spectacle but also pause with us to recall the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers who gave so much 100 years ago.”

Cllr Wales said the internationally acclaimed classical soloist, Aled Jones MBE will lead the event: “This is actually his only performance in Northern Ireland during his current tour.

“The concert will follow a military and veterans’ parade that will leave from the car park at Scotch Quarter at 7pm and march along Marine Highway.

“The parade will be led by the Band of the Irish Guards and will also feature the band, bugles, pipes and drums of the Royal Irish Regiment as well as a wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial.

“The salute will be taken by Her Majesty The Queen’s Lord Lieutenant, Joan Christie OBE,” the Mayor said.

The parade will enter the site at the stunning Carrickfergus Castle around 7.28pm, timed to be exactly 12 hours after troops went over the top in France a century ago.

The Castle will then provide the backdrop to an emotional depiction of the Battle of the Somme. The audience will hear military and orchestral music, see drama performances and recitals, including reading of real letters sent from the trenches as part of a stunning audio-visual extravaganza.

Along with Aled Jones’s musical tribute there will also be special performances by four-time all-Ireland fiddle champion, Tracey McRory to commemorate soldiers from all over Ireland.

The event will include a drum head service and two minute silence in respect of the fallen and will conclude shortly after 10pm with the lighting-up of the County Antrim War Memorial at Knockagh, high above the Castle ramparts.

Access

Entry to the event is by official ticket only. Tickets will be verified by security staff upon entry.

This event will make use of most of the main car parking areas in Carrickfergus and so parking is very limited in the marina area. Visitors are advised to use public transport, or the Park and Ride facilities.

Joymount and High Street car parks have been exclusively designated for disabled parking. To park in these car parks please bring blue badge with and contact the Visitor Information Centre on 0300 124 5000 to advise of requirements in advance. Disabled parking is first-come-first-served.

Park and Ride

Two Park and Ride facilities will be open from 5pm. Park at either the Ulster University, Jordanstown or at Woodburn Playing Fields, Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus and take the short bus ride to the gates of the concert.

The first bus will leave for the concert site at approximately 5.30pm.

Buses will accommodate people who want to bring with foldable chairs and picnic baskets.

Public transport

If using public transport, Carrickfergus train station is just a short seven minute walk from the venue.

Parade

War veterans or ex-serviceman who would like to join the parade are invited to arrive at the car park at Scotch Quarter by 6.30pm. Civilian dress and medals. The military and veterans’ parade will leave from the car park at Scotch Quarter and parade along Marine Highway at 7pm.