Ballymena Festival of Music, Speech and Dance is set to celebrate its centenary next year with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Through its ‘Sharing Heritage’ programme, the Lottery organisation has agreed to sponsor a project which will research the history of the Festival allowing its remarkable story to be told by and to the community.
Ballymena Festival began in 1916 - the mid-way point of the horrific First World War - with a two-day event featuring singing and pianoforte.
In 2016 the centenary Festival will last for several weeks and will include competitions in Vocal music, Instrumental music, Traditional music, Irish dance, Modern dance and Speech and Drama.
The Festival, or ‘The Feis’ as it is known, has been an important part of the cultural landscape of Ballymena. It provides a platform for young and old from all sections of the community to showcase their talents and to receive professional advice and encouragement from the adjudicators. Over the century, tens of thousands have participated in Festival events.
During its hundred years of existence, the Festival has grown and evolved to be one of the largest Festivals in Northern Ireland and organisers are very proud of the standards attained by so many performers who come from all sides of the community locally. Many competitors come from further afield to take part.
Commenting on the award, Hazel Bonar, one of the organisers of the Centenary Festival said: “We are delighted to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund as it enables us to celebrate the centenary in a meaningful way. Many people have happy memories of the Festival and we hope that the project will enable the community to appreciate the whole story.”
Hazel said that the project would require considerable research so that a commemorative book can be written. The book will include photographs and will detail some of the memories of those who have been associated with the Festival over the past 100 years. In addition, the Braid will host an exhibition of Festival memorabilia which will give local people the opportunity to see some of the rich heritage of this cultural event.’
She added: “The Festival itself is run entirely by volunteers who give their time and expertise to make sureit runs as smoothly as possible.”
This project also hopes to highlight the value of the service given by successive generations of these Festival workers. The Festival would cease to exist without their commitment.”
For further information, images and interviews please contact Delia Close, Publicity secretary, tel. 02825644247, or visit the Festival website: www.ballymenafestival.org.uk
The Heritage Lottery Fund
‘Sharing Heritage’ is for any not-for-profit group wanting to explore their community’s heritage. With a commitment from HLF of £3m each year, Sharing Heritage grants between £3,000 and £10,000 are now available to groups who want to discover their local heritage.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk