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Birr Vintage Week seeking support and ideas for 50th anniversary

Thursday, 1 February 2018

THIS is a massive year for the Birr Vintage Week festival, and its committee is seeking support and ideas from the general public to make it the really outstanding event that the town deserves.

The festival is reaching the milestone of its 50th anniversary and it will run this year from Friday August 3 to Sunday August 12, taking in two weekends rather than the usual one. 

The organisation held its AGM in Dooly's Hotel on Friday evening. This was a well attended event which floated several possible ideas for events during the week including burying a Time Capsule containing 15 things associated with Birr which would be dug up on the occasion of the festival's 100th anniversary. 

Possible "Official Openers" were also discussed and all the potential openers discussed would be excellent for the part. 

John Kelly made a significant announcement during the meeting when he said the vintners in the town had decided to increase their annual sponsorship of the festival to €10,000 this year. 

 Chairman Cyril Stanley warmly welcomed this and urged everyone connected with Birr to follow the example of the vintners' generosity because the more sponsorship the festival receives the better it will be.

He also pointed out that more stewards are needed for the smooth running of events such as the Parade. He appealed to the members of the public to please come forward and act as stewards. "Sometimes being a steward only means an hour or two of work. It is no big deal in that sense but it means an awful lot to us because it drastically lessens our workload." He pointed out that more stewards are badly needed for the placing and removal of crowd barriers during the Parade.

The Chairman also welcomed the fact that the town's vintners were well represented at the AGM. "It is great to see you here this evening."

The meeting discussed what the word "vintage" actually means. It was generally agreed to leave it as wide open as possible ranging from 1960s flower power to Game of Thrones or Peaky Blinders.

Projecting images or films onto the sides of buildings was one suggestion for an event to run during this year's festival. 

 An artisan food market was another.

One person recalled what it was like during the first Vintage Weeks. "The biggest impact for the visitor to the festival in the early days," she said, "was that so many people were in vintage costume. Many people in the shops were in vintage costume. Perhaps we could offer some sort of incentive to shop owners which would inspire them to ask their employees to dress in costume. In the early years some of us had two costumes, one for the day and one for the evening." She added that a play is being written and will be performed during the festival.

 The Good Olde Days, a vaudeville style theatrical entertainment, was very popular during the early Vintage Weeks. It was suggested that this might be revitalised. One person thought that the concept has gone out of fashion and wouldn't work. The Good Olde Days was inspired by the BBC light entertainment programme of the same name which ran from 1953 to 1983. The TV programme recreated an authentic atmosphere of the Victorian-Edwardian music hall with songs and sketches of the era performed by contemporary performers in the style of the original artistes. The audience dressed in period costume and joined in the singing, especially "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" which closed the show.

A representative of Ormand Flying Club told the meeting that the club plans to hold a bigger Airshow in Birr Airfield this year. The Chairman praised the Flying Club pointing out that the Airshow is a very enjoyable, popular event and is one of the bigger things during the festival. The club plans to have more vintage aircraft at the Airshow this year. 

 One of the publicans urged retailers to remain open on Bank Holiday Monday (which is August 6). "It's disappointing to see the shops closed on the Bank Holiday Monday," he commented. "They should open on Sunday as well. There are lots of people in the town and it would make sense to keep the shops open at least for a few hours."

A person from Crinkle said the village is planning to host a Red Bull Soapbox Race during the festival. A soapbox or gravity racer is a motorless vehicle which is raced on a downhill road either against the clock or against another competitor. Propelled by gravity soapbox vehicles can reach speeds of a hundred miles an hour. However, typically the top speeds are 20 to 30 mph.

The Chairman advised the Soapbox organisers, which is a group of ten people, to move as quickly as possible regarding road closures and the involvement of the Order of Malta.

Co-Chairperson Janine Wilson pointed out that during the first Vintage Weeks there were two Balls. "We plan to restart this tradition and hold a Ball this year. We held a Ball for the 40th and it was a fantastic success."

One person suggested they hold a Nuit Blanche during the festival. Nuit Blanche is an all-night or night-time arts festival. Typically it will have museums, private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions open and free of charge. Sometimes the town centres are turned into de facto art galleries, providing space for art installations, performances (music, film, dance, performance art), themed social gatherings, and other activities.

Another person suggested that pubs and restaurants should offer discounts to customers who are in costume.

Another said they should talk to the schools about the pupils creating costumes for the week. The costumes could be Punk Couture or Steam Punk, she said.

It was suggested that costume workshops be held, starting before Easter. A subcommittee will probably be set up to oversee this.

The next meeting to discuss the 50th Birr Vintage Week will probably take place on Friday February 9.

If you have an idea or want to lend your support then please contact one of the two Chairpeople, Cyril Stanley (087 2889616) or Janine Wilson (087 2071258) or by emailing birrvintageweek2018@gmail.com .

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