Songwriter pens winning entry in inaugural award

A young Letterkenny band have written themselves into the record books - and potential album status - by winning the Paul Clancy Young Songwriters award and finishing runners-up in the Irish Youth Music Awards staged in Dublin last weekend.

A young Letterkenny band have written themselves into the record books - and potential album status - by winning the Paul Clancy Young Songwriters award and finishing runners-up in the Irish Youth Music Awards staged in Dublin last weekend.

The four-piece outfit, ‘Jamaican Vampires’, emerged from the regional finals, held in the An Grianan Theatre three months ago, to claim their place in the national competition at Liberty Hall last Sunday.

The band is made up of vocalist Lauren Keeney, Gabriel Blake (lead guitarist), Conal Doherty (bass guitar) and drummer Gary Hamilton. 14 year old Gabriel penned the song ‘Change’ which took the inaugural songwriters award.

“I wrote it in my granny’s bedroom last November. I do most of the writing in my own room,” declared the young Letterkenny man.

A cousin of fellow band members, Lauren and Conal, the teenage song writer was also delighted with the group’s second place in the coveted Music Awards.

“It was brilliant. First of all we were so pleased to get through from the Regional Finals but then to go on and get second was something else,” enthused Gabriel.

The band’s manager, John Muldowney, described it as a “fantastic achievement” for a bunch of 14 year old musicians competing against nineteen other acts ranging in ages up to nineteen.

Foroige project worker at The Loft enterprise in Letterkenny - which initiated the ‘Jamaican Vampires’ adventure - John maintained: “I’m delighted they have achieved this success. They deservedly won the Regional Final at An Grianan in February against 11 other fantastically talented acts from across Donegal and have done us all proud.”The Irish Youth Music Awards involves over 15,000 young musicians from all over the country and all music played in the competition is original. The competition focusses on all aspects of the music business, teaching the youthful exponents about promotion, packaging, press and radio and internet exposure.

Youth Development Officer with the Donegal Youth Service, Frankie McGreevy labelled the achievement as “fantastic news” and voiced the hope that it was also recognition of the great work the support team had done with the band.

“I would like to commend their efforts, particularly Eibhlin McGeady and Karl Dunleavy, for their great photography, and all those who helped in any way.”

Gabriel, too, sang the praises of all involved. The band have produced a demo which has earned some airplay locally on Highland Radio and are now hopeful of further promotion.

“We’d definitely like to pursue something in the music business. It’s a big part of our lives for all of us.”

Apart from the regular gigs, the next big venture for ‘Jamaican Vampires’ is the popular Party in the Park event which takes place in Letterkenny in the summer.

Meanwhile, The Loft and Letterkenny Youth Information Centre continues to offer support to young musicians with a fully equipped rehearsal room available from 5.p.m. to 8.p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 5.p.m. to 10.p.m. on Fridays, and from 2.pm. to 6.p.m. on Saturdays.

The facility is free of charge and slots may be booked by telephoning 074-9129640 or 074-9188271.

The remarkable success of ‘Jamaican Vampires’ offers testimony to the role the facility can play in developing musical acts in the future.