Ballymena prepares for international music event

Claire McDonald teaches young musicians from Gran Canaria
Claire McDonald teaches young musicians from Gran Canaria

Following last year’s successful Centenary Festival, the 101st Ballymena Festival is set to become an international event with a large number of entries from across the globe.

For many years, the Festival of Music, Speech and Dance has attracted performers from England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, but this year’s event has seen an unprecedented amount of international entries.

The new development is the initiative of Ballymena woman Claire McDonald who, since 2014, has been Head of Music at the British School of Gran Canaria.

Claire grew up competing in Ballymena Festival as a flautist, and was runner-up in the Northern Ireland Flute Player of the Year in 2004.

Her family are founder members of the Kellswater Flute Band. She remembers how much this meant to her, especially during her years at Cambridge House Grammar School.

Now, as a teacher, Claire explained she believes that the best way to assist the musical development of her students is to bring them to Ballymena, and the Festival Committee are delighted to welcome the international students.

She said: “This is a great opportunity for the pupils to perform and have the privilege to listen to a high level of musicianship from a variety of schools.”

Instrumental Secretary Mairead Richards added: “We are thrilled to have a large number of International entries. It will be a huge learning experience for our local performers to share their music as well as hear the performances of their peers from Gran Canaria. 

“We know our visitors will also gain a huge amount from the experience of competing at Ballymena.”

The 101st Festival will begin on Saturday, February 18 with the Traditional Music day.   

The Instrumental week runs from Monday, February 20, culminating with the Beggs and Partners Instrumentalist of the Year Award on Saturday.

Vocal Section starts on Monday, February 27, finishing with the Festival Gala on March, 4. The Modern Dance Section begins on Monday, March 6 and runs until Saturday, March 10. 

Check the Festival website at for further details.