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Vibrant, exciting Vintage Week promised at launch 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Vibrant, exciting Vintage Week promised at launch  thumbnailArts Officer Offaly County Council Mary Brady was the special guest who officially launched the 49th Annual Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival on Friday evening last in the Castle Courthouse Cafe

A VIBRANT and exciting Birr Vintage Week was promised at the festival's launch in Birr Castle on Friday evening.

 The festival is the envy of many communities across Ireland and it fits perfectly with the Georgian architecture and elegant appearance of the town.

This year's event will run from Friday August 4 to Friday August 11 and once again it will be a historical, cultural and community-focused celebration of the town. 

Locals and visitors, old friends and new, will be invited to step back in time and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Birr. They will be able to immerse themselves in its history, heritage and contemporary culture through the medium of the imaginative range of vintage and modern events throughout the week.  

 The Arts have played a central role since the festival began in 1968, and this year's Visual Arts Trail will feature over a hundred visiting and local artists showcasing work in all media.  Exhibitions and pop-up studios will transform previously vacant spaces into creative hubs, with master-classes, workshops, artist talks and demonstrations taking place.

Over 100 events are in the programme and will demonstrate that there is much positivity and considerable hope for those living in a rural town. 

People will be able to browse the many stalls at the Artisan Food and Craft Market, enjoy wonderful musical entertainment by members of Midland Musical Youth, discover treasure at the Hibernian Antiques Fair, enjoy the impressive aerobatics display at the Ormand Flying Club and delight at the Festival Parade which will transform sleepy Sunday streets into a carnival of vintage vehicles, street theatre, marching bands, floats, dance and music.  

Other highlights will include lunchtime theatre at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre, the Gig Rig with live music from Smash Hits and the spectacular Fireworks Display which will light up the skies above the town. Free children's events, sporting activities, historical walks and talks and musical treats also feature, promising great entertainment throughout the Festival Week.

 With annual favourites and new events, vintage flavour and modern entertainment throughout, the 49th Annual Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival promises to be a memorable event inspiring participation & enjoyment in all those who come out and sample the events in a lovely setting, a town which was recently voted one of TravelMag.com's 20 most charming towns in Ireland.

Co-Chairperson of the festival Cyril Stanley welcomed everyone to the launch at the Castle Courtyard Café on Friday evening. He thanked Midland Musical Youth and Enda O'Connor for providing very enjoyable musical entertainment at the launch. He congratulated Mary Walsh-Kinsella and the staff at the Courtyard Café for providing delicious canapés for the launch. He said he was delighted to see so many people present in vintage costume and urged everyone to get into the spirit of the festival and dress in costume.

 Co-Chair of the organising committee, Janine Wilson, said "It is my great pleasure to welcome you here to Birr Castle Demesne this evening for the official launch of this year's festival. It is wonderful to see your enthusiasm at this year's programme of events. We are very proud of the amount of, and the range of, events listed and truly feel that there is something, if not a number of events, for all ages and interests.  

  "As we celebrate this year's 49th festival, and indeed anticipate next year's Golden anniversary celebrations, its enduring popularity and central role in the social fabric of Birr is an amazing testament to the outstanding community of the town who come together year after year to ensure that the tradition is carried on.  

"It is heartening to see so many past committee members here this evening, and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the next generation of committees (hopefully) are represented by our young volunteers Cailin, Dean, Ciara and Callum, and so, combined with the other young people present we hope that the future of the festival is assured.

 "Festivals of our longevity, and with such a breadth of programming, do not just happen. They are made happen. Our voluntary committee works tirelessly and with incredible passion and positivity, around their day jobs and lives to put together the programme you see before you. They also have families and friends, who support them in the months leading up to the festival and without their support it just wouldn't happen.  

"The clubs and societies of the town, from north, south, east and west come together with new and even more creative ideas every year and their enthusiasm knows no bounds.  

"Along with a dynamic range of community focused events, Birr's rich artistic and cultural vein is reflected in the exciting Visual Arts Trail with over 100 local and visiting artists participating.  You have to agree that it is an incredible line-up.

"Of course in order for the Festival to take place, the financial contributions made to it cannot be underestimated and are hugely appreciated.  

"I would like to thank: Our funders: Offaly County Council, Birr Municipal District (represented here by Cllr. John Clendennen), and Offaly Local Development Company. Our Diamond Sponsors: Leigh Hollywood, Hollywood's Garage (Leigh and Sabrina we are delighted that you could attend this evening) and Birr Lions Club, ably represented by Fred Boulton and Benny Larkin. Our Platinum Sponsors: The Earl & Countess of Rosse, (our longtime supporters and Festival Friends who contribute so much to the Festival each and every year) and Kieran and Eithne Garahy from Garahy's Garage whose beautiful vintage bus has become a feature of the Festival).

We are delighted to acknowledge our 18 Pubs Sponsors, 9 Gold Sponsors, 13 Silver Sponsors and 81 Bronze Sponsors and our Programme Partner Birr Theatre & Arts Centre. We, the festival committee, would not be able to offer this very busy programme to the community without all your support. And we encourage everyone to please support those who support the Festival.

  "At this juncture I would like to say a special thank you to Mary and her team here in the Courtyard Café; to Lord and Lady Rosse; to Grainne O'Malley and all their team for hosting us this evening in these beautiful surroundings. It truly is a stunning location for this event.

  "Before I finish I must say that I really hope that you enjoy this year's Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival. Please do invite all your family and friends to join us here in Birr this summer to enjoy the festivities.

"It is now my great pleasure to introduce Mary Brady, Arts Officer for Offaly County Council, who will officially launch the festival. With the Arts playing such a central part of the Festival, we are delighted to welcome her to her first Vintage Week experience and look forward to working closely with her and her colleagues going forward."

Mrs Brady joked that she felt a bit underdressed at the launch. She said the festival's reputation stretched the length and breadth of the island and was the envy of many. She pointed out that we in Offaly have a very rich heritage and have a right to be justly proud of that.

She said that in terms of heritage and culture, Birr shines like a beacon in the county. She added that when the Pride of Place judges visited the town last week it was very obvious to the visitors what a special place it is.

The Arts Officer commented that the festival demonstrates the skills, energy and abundant imagination of the townspeople. She said it's a demonstration of people power, displaying what a community can do when it puts its mind to it.

The officer pointed out that festivals are special events and should never be underestimated. She said they are more than just moneyspinners. "They are a call to action and they inspire ideas. They call for leadership, courage and invention, qualities which are in abundance in Birr, a town which is one of the most artistic places in Ireland."

 She listed some of the excellent artistic events in the town which have taken place in recent months including the Scripts playwriting festival, and the festival of music & voice. She said Birr Theatre and Arts Centre is an invaluable place in the life of the community, providing a venue for many artistic events.

"The scale of artistic activity in Birr is breathtaking and I suspect that Birr Vintage Week is the pollinator, the catalyst, for a lot of that. I am also sure that the festival generates a sense of possibility and hope. Festivals have been described as the extreme sport of the arts. They change the way people perceive their town."

Further information: Festival Information Line 087-9226961. www.birrvintageweek.com or on Facebook.

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