THE 50th instalment of the Mid Ulster Drama Festival is set to be a celebration of over five decades of dedication by all involved in the highly regarded event.
On Friday, March 24 the eagerly awaited festival of amateur drama opens for the first of nine nights, closing on Saturday, April 1.
The programme features the usual rich variety of plays which its patrons have enjoyed over the years, since its inception in 1964. Groups from all parts of Ireland are taking part and are assured of a warm Carrickmore welcome and an enthusiastic reception of their productions during the week of the festival.
The adjudicator for this year’s special festival is Dublin-born Martin Maguire who has wide experience as a playwright, director, actor and adjudicator. Guest speaker at the official opening ceremony will be the highly regarded Belfast actor and playwright, Dan Gordon.
As the curtain came down on last years festival, the dedicated organising committee were soon hard at work again to ensure that the 50th lives up to its illustrious past and shines as bright as ever before.
Once again drama groups from the length and breadth of Ireland will be travelling to perform in the Patrician Hall. These include for the first time Bridge Drama, from Castlebridge, Co Wexford, winners of last year’s All Ireland Drama Finals, who will be performing the JB Priestley classic thriller, ‘An Inspector Calls’. Another group also making their debut at the festival will be Dublin-based Dalkey Players who were runners-up in last year’s All Ireland Finals.
Closing the festival on Saturday night is the Corn Mill Theatre Group from Co Leitrim.
Festival director, Patricia Nugent said, “It is a real boost to have such outstanding groups and shows being performed on every night of the festival.
“There is a wide range of comedies and dramas that are sure to be a hit with all the audiences over the nine nights. It is very relaxed with the audiences encouraged to stay after for a bite to eat and talk about the play while there is live music after a few of the nights. We want everyone to fully enjoy all nine nights whether they come for one show or get a season ticket for them all. It will be a true celebration and I can’t wait to savour every moment of it.”
The festival was officially launched on Sunday, with a larger crowd than anticipated turning up to support their event.
It was hosted by esteemed journalist, broadcaster and actor Ivan Little who compered the Q&A with the panel of four, comprised of Aussie Bryson from Lifford Players, Professional actors Seamus O’Rourke from Leitrim, Conor Grimes from Donaghmore and Frances Jordon, also from Donaghmore, who has just received a best supporting actress award in Russia.
Patricia said, “The launch was a complete success. We had given an open invitation to patrons, playwrights and drama enthusiasts and had an over-expected crowd so we had to put out extra tables and more food. I think this demonstrates the high regard in which the festival is held and is hopefully an indication of a great nine nights ahead.
“We want this festival to be a celebration of the 50 years of people working very hard, through times when we didn’t have the wonderful facilities we have now in the Patrician Hall.”
Patricia expressed how the success of the festival is thanks to the hard work of the countless volunteers spanning back over five decades starting with her own parents – Michael and Patsy Donnelly – who were two of the founding members of the festival in Carrickmore.
“I grew up with the festival. You could say I had no option,” joked Patricia. “My mother was festival director until she died in 1980 and my father was chairman. I then took over as festival director in 1983 after daddy died.
“There is so many happy and memorable moments over the years, but it is the people I have met and friends I have made thanks to the festival that I cherish most.”
• Season or nightly tickets can be booked at the Festival Box Office, telephone no. 8076 1906, which is open daily from Monday, March 20 (10am – 5pm). Season tickets are excellent value at £50 and nightly tickets are keenly priced at £8.
Friday, March 24 – Baileborough Drama Group open the festival with ‘The Tide’.
Saturday, March 25 – Dalkey Players perform ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’.
Sunday, March 26 – Braden Players perform ‘Blackbird’.
Monday, March 27 – Blackburners Drama Circle perform ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’.
Tuesday, March 28 – Ballyshannon Dramatic Society perform ‘The Real Thing’.
Wednesday, March 29 – Lifford Players perform ‘Abigail’s Party’.
Thursday, March 30 – Pomeroy Players present ‘Eclipsed’.
Friday, March 31 – Bridge Drama perform ‘An Inspector Calls’.
Saturday, April 1 – Corn Mill Theatre Group close the festival with ‘Philadephia, Here I Come!’.