Countdown to 2011 Big Oak Literary & Arts Festival

Little John Nee's 'The Derry Boat'. (60911JC1)
Little John Nee's 'The Derry Boat'. (60911JC1)
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Poets, authors, playwrights, musicians and top comedians - this weekend Derry’s 2nd annual Big Oak Literary & Arts Festival will have it all!

This year, as well as the Saturday Garden Party at the historic Prehen House, organisers have expanded the festival to three days with four extra events in the city centre.

Anne-Marie Mullan. (60911JC3)

Anne-Marie Mullan. (60911JC3)

“This is our second year running the festival,” says Big Oak organiser, John O’Neill. “Last year’s was the pilot event to see how well it all worked. Unfortunately we were rained out for the duration of the festival and up to our necks in mud!

“But we learned a lot from the experience and this year, just in case, we’ll have more tents, marquees and better parking.

“We’ve also moved our three main events to the Millennium Forum, which brings the festival closer to the city centre too.”

The Big Oak Literary & Arts Festival is launched at 6.30pm this Friday, September 9, at Central Library, with Omagh’s Open Door Poetry Group performing at the library from 7pm onwards.

Comedian Owen O'Neill. (60911JC4)

Comedian Owen O'Neill. (60911JC4)

Later that evening will see one of the highlights of the weekend.

“Our big show on Friday night will be Little John Nee’s ‘The Derry Boat’, which starts at 8pm tonight in the Millennium Forum,” John O’Neill says.

As well as performing at Prehen House during the Saturday Garden Party, Owen O’Neill actor, poet and master comedian, will also take to the stage at the Millennium Forum on Saturday night, September 10, from 8pm.

Likewise, the hilarious Kevin McAleer will be amusing crowds at Prehen House as well as headlining the festival at the Forum on Sunday night, September 11, from 8pm. Tickets for both shows from the Forum Box Office.

Saturday will see the usual Garden Party at Prehen House beginning at noon, and running until 8.30pm.

Almost 50 guests and acts are lined up for Prehen House including authors Christine Donovan, Dave Duggan, Garbhan Downey, Jason Johnston, Carlo Gebler and Anita Robinson, who will be doing readings in the Coach House.

Poets reciting in Prehen House Library will include The Poetry Chicks, Owen O’Neill, Jinx Lennon, James King, Frank Rafferty, Melanie Bradley and Connor Kelly, while a music stage will welcome bands like Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas and John Deery and the Heads, as well as an acoustic tent for solo artists.

John O’Neill talks about another few festival highlights in store this weekend.

“The now famous Comedy Shed is back, with 14 fantastic comedians lined up, and on Saturday afternoon, an hour-long debate will take place in the Library of Prehen House on the subject of ‘Is the novel dead.’” Presenting the argument will be author Carlo Gebler, while Anita Robinson will be arguing that the novel is most certainly NOT dead.”

Local slam-poets will have to opportunity to showcase their skills before a receptive audience on Sunday evening.

“We’re hosting the North West Heats of the All-Ireland Poetry Slam, at the Cottage in the Craft Village on Sunday, September 11, at 4pm,” he reveals.

“It’ll be brilliant craic and poets will be given three minutes in which to impress the judges!

“The winner will go on to represent the North West at the All-Ireland Finals which are also being held, for the first time, in Derry later this year! Oh, and it’s a Bring Your Own event too.”

Besides all this, there will be a family friendly feel to this year’s festival, with lots of fun kids activities in store for little festival-goers.

All in all, this looks set to be a weekend of serious culture, creativity and comedy not to be missed!

Tickets for the full day at Prehen House on Saturday cost £15, with children under 12 free.

Tickets for both Owen O’Neill and Kevin McAleer’s Forum shows are available by contacting the Millennium Forum Box Office on: 71. 264455.

For a full line-up and details of the Big Oak Festival, see:www.bigoakartsfest.com