A major new festival initiative has been launched across counties Armagh and Down to celebrate Ireland’s Patron Saint during a ground-breaking three-week global programme, which gets under way on Friday, March 3rd 2017.
The Home of St Patrick Festival promises to be the biggest, best, and most-diverse celebration of Patrick’s life story, values and achievements to be found throughout Europe. An unrivalled mix of Irish and international music, theatre, spoken word, art and comedy will showcase the stunning locations where he walked and worked, providing an unforgettable experience for all who attend.
Bringing together renowned performers, artists, guest speakers and visionaries from around the world, the festival opens with a unique and spiritual sunset event at The Mound of Down featuring Aboriginal musicians who have travelled from Australia especially for the occasion.
The international flavour continues with The Secret Ensemble, an eight-strong musical collaboration of expert artists from Turkey, Iran and the Middle East who have merged Anatolian sufi and mystical tones with influences from their own regions to create an exciting new sound.
A sense of involvement and participation are key elements of this year’s festival, with everyone encouraged to take part in many of the individual events.
The Drums of the World will be heard across Armagh and Down thanks to demonstrations and lessons for the public that have been specially curated for the festival with various drums of Ireland including the Lambeg, marching drums and bodhran, and drums from global cultures.
Budding artists can also attend two workshops in applying gold leaf to manuscripts as part of Illumination with acclaimed artist Toni Watts.
Taking place over 17 days, this landmark festival presents a central focus on the number 17 and its relevance to St Patrick and his death on March 17th, with 17 major events catering for a broad range of interests, including live music, traditional Gaelic sport and spiritual elements.
While the spirit is lifted by music, the Home of St Patrick Festival will also provide food for thought with a series of guest lecturers, speakers and thought leaders. Memoirs and Confessions is a series of talks and panel sessions providing insight from Scottish writer, broadcaster and daughter of Magnus Sally Magnussen, and former punk rocker and Sid Vicious cohort Viv Albertine, among others, about how they have dealt with adversity, along with stories from their varied careers and advice on life in the modern world.
Exploring the essence of struggle, emotion and humanity in its rawest forms, movie fans are also catered for with Spiritual Celluloid, a unique selection and showcase of films from Russia, France and Turkey.
St Patrick in a modern context is the subject of inspiring St Patrick’s Lecture on March 16th, when the Primates of the two principal churches in Ireland will explore the theme of Patrick the Exile. This will be followed by a special St Patrick’s Vigil which will reflect his own journey of unity and which links the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic cathedrals.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cllr Garath Keating, said;
“We are delighted to be collaborating with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for what will be an eclectic and thought-provoking experience. Our aim is to grow this unique festival into a world-class annual celebration of arts, food and special events celebrating St Patrick’s life, his legacy and his relevance.
“The Home of St Patrick programme ensures that our local and international visitors can enjoy the unique opportunity to share an incredible festival line-up in many interesting locations and areas of outstanding natural beauty.”
After a hugely successful inaugural event in 2016, the collaboration between Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough and Newry, Mourne and Down District Councils will provide an arts and culture extravaganza that will provide inspiration, entertainment, and reflection.
Members of the public are encouraged to walk in the footsteps of St Patrick with both A Way for Seeing and St Patrick in the Landscape events providing guided tours that will showcase key locations that inspired and witnessed the life and work of Patrick.
Relive Patrick landing in Ireland with the re-enactment of St Patrick’s Landing at Inch Abbey and along the River Quoile. A free Park & Ride service will be provided from Down Business Park while the Shamrock Steam Train travels direct from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey.
Music fans have a cacophony of choice to enjoy, including solo performers such as Grainne Duffy, Belfast’s own Grainne Holland and opera singer Ruby Philogene MBE who has performed in London, Berlin, Brussels and with the San Francisco Opera Company. There are groups and bands covering all genres and styles of music including Cork-based Blues and roots band One Horse Pony, the folk-gothic, all-female, five-piece Wookalily.
Cllr Gillian Fitzpatrick, Chairperson, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said:
“We are counting down the days until the festival kicks off. Rich in all kinds of cultural experiences, it will bring the wider community together to celebrate St Patrick in his adopted homeland across counties Armagh and Down.
“This will be a magical 17 days that will delight, inspire and astound. Preparations are advancing and we are very excited about this year’s programme to begin so that the true depth, variety and artistic wealth apparent in the festival’s development can be enjoyed from all who will attend the many events and we are encouraging everyone to log on and book early to avoid disappointment.”
Town centres will come alive with colour and noise as fantastic carnival processions make their way through Armagh, Newry and Downpatrick. Bringing communities from across the region together in a celebration of local talent, dance and entertainment, visitors and residents will create memories to last a lifetime with spectacular cavalcades of floats and fancy dress.