Festival celebrates 37 years

THE 37th Banbridge Performing Arts (Speech and Drama) festival, one of the largest in Ireland, finished on Friday night with some exciting and close final competitions. The festival, which was the brainchild of Patricia Mulligan, started off 37 years ago in a very small way in the front dining room of the Belmont Hotel but with the help of a very enthusiastic and hard working committee, great support from a far-seeing local council and entries from a wide area, it has grown and grown.

This year no less than 2,000 competitors entered from as far away as Dungannon, Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan, Crossgar, Newcastle, and Newry came to compete in over 100 separate classes.

The final night,which this year was on a Friday, proved once again to be a main attraction with so many of the overall awards being presented. Best actress [The Cara Forker cup] went to Holly McConville for her work in “Annie”, “The Little mermaid” and “Blood brothers” and best actor [The Peter Mulligan cup] was Eoin McAndrew for his work in “The merchant of Venice” and “A few just men”.

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The Siobhan McGarry trophies for Unseen work went to Michael Morrow [juniors] and Cormac Begley [seniors] The Bowman Cup for Bible went to Holly Coulter with 88 marks. The special print of competitors entering the Belmont Hotel for the annual Festival was won by Michael Morrow [who had a very successful night!] as he had the highest mark in the favourite poem section.

Casey Fitzpatrick won the Abercorn PTA Rosebowl as the Primary School girl with the highest mark and Eoin Rice did the same in the boys’ class winning the McGaffin Rosebowl. The highest mark in drama, the sinead Lunney cup, went to the Robinson School’s production of an extract from “Annie”.

Festival Secretary, Mrs Patricia Mulligan, praised both adjudicators, Mrs Ailbhe Gravey-Hughes [Galway] and Mr Timothy McCarthy [ from Cork] for the very professional way in which they had listened and judged all the contestants. Every competitor was given the same attention and the Festival chairman commented on the remarkable consistency of marking from both. The adjudicators were then presented with limited edition prints of the children entering the Belmont Hotel for the annual November festival and gifts from Banbridge Council. It was a sign of their excellent adjudications that a lot of praise actually came from the competitors!

The festival, which has been based in the Belmont Hotel for 37 years, would also like to thank the management of the hotel for their efforts in accommodating the committee, adjudicators and more than 2,000 competitors during the time of the competitions and for providing three rooms for the competitions. Festival Secretary, Mrs Patricia Mulligan had a very special word of thanks for the voluntary committee whose expertise made the whole event run so smoothly.

The premier award of the festival is always the Patricia Mulligan trophy which goes to the highest mark in the whole festival achieved in any of the 21 classes where test pieces had been set. The winner in 2008 was Hannah Craig and she was followed in 2009 by Maebh Mallon who won with 90 marks . In 2010 the premier award was won by Caoimhe Connell with 90 marks. In 2011 the overall winner was Rebecca Ross with 89 marks.

The President, Mr Frank Mulligan, then formally closed the 37th festival, thanked everyone for their support and looked forward to seeing everyone again in 2012. The committee then met for a celebratory meal in the Belmont! The committee will meet in January to start preparations for the 38th Annual festival which will run from November 12-16 next year. The syllabus can be obtained from Festival Secretary, Mrs Patricia Mulligan on 028 406 23748.