Impressive sweep of events for 16th annual Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival

Festival events will take place across south and south west Donegal - Ballyshannon, Ballybofey, Leghowney, Donegal, Dunkineely, Cill Chartha, Gleann Choilm Cille, Ardara and Glenties.

Michael Daly

Reporter:

Michael Daly

The 16th annual Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival takes place Friday to Sunday, September 29th to October 9th.
Festival events will take place in a host of towns and villages in south and south west Donegal including Ballyshannon, Ballybofey, Leghowney, Donegal, Dunkineely, Cill Chartha, Gleann Choilm Cille, Ardara and Glenties. The festival is presented by Donegal County Council, with the assistance of The Arts Council An Comhairle Ealaion.

1916-2016 Centenary Programme
This year’s festival will honour the 1916-2016 Centenary with two very special events.
The festival’s largest event, the Festival Carnival Parade on Saturday night, October 8th, will reflect Ballyshannon in 1916, a turbulent and exciting time with so much in the air – war in Europe and young men from all over the North West travelling to the Royal Inniskillings training camp at Finner, the Irish Volunteers planning for an imminent rebellion in Dublin and the Womens Right to Vote movement gathering momentum throughout Britain and Ireland.
The Festival is also delighted to host the second only performance of Inishowen singer and composer Kate O’Callaghan’s song series, The Girl With The Beret, inspired by her great grand aunt’s statement to the Office of Military History, about her role in the Easter Rising and its aftermath. The performance, which also features the musicians of Donegal Camerata String Ensemble, takes place at the Abbey Arts Centre on Sunday Night, October 2nd.

Theatre Programme
Local companies Balor Rep, Dark Daughter and Donegal Drama Circle will present plays by Marie Jones, Maura Logue (a brand new work) and Martin McDonagh respectively, while Stranorlar native Shirley Anne Bonner presents a new play on the life and times of Frances Browne, the ‘Blind Poetess of Ulster', on the occasion of the bicentenary of her birth.
The festival opens on Thursday night, September 29th, at the Abbey Arts Centre with the premier performance of a new work by Maura Logue, Mother Loss - The Story of the Wollstonecraft Women. The play imagines a reunion of three extraordinary, late 18th. and 19th century women - mother Mary Wollstonecroft ( pioneering British writer and feminist ) and her daughters Mary Shelly (author of the classic Gothic horror novel, Frankenstein) and Fanny Imlay, the younger of the two, who died tragically at the age of 25. The story has a strong Donegal connection as Mary Wollstonecraft’s mother Elizabeth was originally Elizabeth Dixon of Ballyshannon, the Dixons being a particularly wealthy merchant and landowning family in the town.
The Balor Rep will bring Marie Jones’ hilarious play, Fly Me To The Moon, to Ballyshannon, Ballybofey, Gleann Cholm Cille and Ardara, from Tuesday to Sunday, October 4-9. With two of the North West’s finest actresses - Cathleen Bradley and Orla Mullan - in the leading roles, this is guaranteed to be a brilliant night out.
The festival also extends a very warm welcome to the Askeraden Theatre Group from Olso who travel to Donegal as guests of the Ballyshannon Drama Society. Their production of one of the classics of Norwegian theatre, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, is hugely anticipated. It takes place in the Abbey Arts Centre on Saturday night, October 1.
Donegal Drama Circle return to the playwright they presented at the very first Festival, Martin McDonagh, when they present the The Cripple of Inishmaan at Inver Community Centre, from Thursday to Saturday, October 6-8. The play is very much in the news again having enjoyed hugely successful runs in London and New York recently, with Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Pat Shortt in the lead roles.

Music Programme
The festival’s music programme is one of the strongest to-date, boasting a wonderful variety of traditional, choral, jazz, popular and classical music.
Leghowney Hall, celebrating 80 years at the centre of the community, will do so in style in a concert with Zoe Conway, Máirtín O’Connor and Donal Lunny on Wednesday night, October 5. Tickets for this very special night are selling fast and are available now at Ward’s Music, Donegal Town.
There are further big traditional nights to look forward to with shows by Caitlín and Ciarán at Castle Murray House Hotel, St. John’s Point, on Thursday, October 6 and the Glenties Fiddlers Gathering Concert on Saturday, October 8, with Na Mooney’s, Vincent Campbell, Douglas Lawrence and Ellie, Brídín and Catherine McGinley.
Jazz legend Gay McIntyre will share a repertoire drawn from his 60 years as a top performer in his appearance Aislann Cill Chartha, Kilcar on Saturday night, October 1, while on the same night, the Bluestack Chorale - the artists responsible for the very successful Mountcharles Opera Festival – will present Songs for an Autumn Evening, a programe of cabaret classics and popular opera favourites at St. Patrick’s Parish Centre in Donegal Town.
Singers from all over Donegal will combine as The Donegal Voices to present JS Bach’s Magnificat in D and Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria at St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Church, Ballyshannon on Friday night, October 7.

Film and Literary
You are invited to make a date with the Abbey Centre on the final day of the festival, Sunday, October 9th, for a special literary afternoon with some of the finest emerging literary and musical talent in the country today, including Elizabeth Reapy, Imelda Maguire, Kate Dempsey, Rosie Carney and Sarah Cullen.
Thanks to Access Cinema who have facilitated our screenings of the remarkable Icelandic film, Rams, at this year’s Festival. It’s a film which will have a particular resonance in such a strong sheep farming area as South and South West Donegal.

FREE Festival Programme
The FREE Festival Programme will be widely available throughout the South and South West of the county, from this weekend. Look out for it in local shops, libraries, hotels, restaurants, tourist information points and at all participating venues.
The full Festival Programne is also available on the Donegal County Council websites www.doneglcoco.ie and www.donegaldisapora.ie