Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered for the outdoor launch of the Amelia Earhart Festival at Bloomfield in Galliagh. Despite the grey skies a large crowd including local community representatives, councillors and Derry’s Mayor, Colr. Kevin Campbell, gave their seal of approval to the annual event which has now more than established itself as one of the biggest community events in the city.
This year’s Earhart Festival, organised by Greater Shantallow Community Arts, has left no stone unturned in making sure that absolutely every age group and interest is catered for. There are teddy bears picnics, golf tournaments, giant comic books, lectures, tea dances, achievement awards, pigeon clubs, flying clubs and much much more.
The man behind the packed programme, Ollie Green, says the core ethos of community is as important as ever to the festival as well as showcasing the talents of local people as part of the City of Culture celebrations.
“This is a celebration of local talent in as many ways as possible,” the local community worker told the Sunday Journal.
“For me, the highlight of the festival will be our cultural carnival on Sunday May 19 when up to 800 people from community groups across the city and local schools will take part in our ‘Speaking to the World’ parade which will leave from Shantallow Community Centre and make its way to the beautiful countryside at Ballyarnett Country Park. At the grounds of the country park we’ll have a big stage, a live radio roadshow, helicopter rides, a teddybear’s picnic, marching bands, amusements and much, much more.”
While the carnival parade is one of the biggest events of the festival, the Amelia Earhart lecture, which takes place in Thornhill College is a fine example of another objective of the annual event, in promoting the achievements of local women and inspiring future generations.
“This year we have our own famous female explorer Hannah Shiels, who’s famous for having climbed Mount Everest. It’s the second annual lecture and we’re delighted that Thornill have continued to support us in this integral part of the festival itself.”
As well as this, school children from across the city who have displayed courage over the past year will be recognised at the Amelia Earhart medal of achievement awards in front of an audience of 1500.
“That’s something which is hugely important to us because it puts the achievements of our young people out there in the very centre of the city for everyone to see. These are young people who’ve been selected by their own schools for having achieved something special and we’re delighted to be a part of recognising that.”
This year’s festival will also see the launch of the world’s biggest comic book by the hugely talented graphic artist Joe Campbell, which is a City of Culture individual artist feature.
Ollie and his team see this year’s festival as a chance to showcase the very best of their community and to cement the Amelia Earhart festival as one of the city’s biggest and most entertaining annual events.
Undeterred by their closing weekend clashing with BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend at Ebrington, the festival team will have local musicians in a number of locations across the city centre.
“As part of Walled City Live we hope to have around 200 musicians playing gigs around the city centre showcasing the outstanding musical talent we have in our community. So as visitors and locals enjoy the headline acts at R1’s Big Weekend, we’ll have the best local talent on offer at locations across the city centre.”
For more information on the festival contact Greater Shantallow Community Arts on 02871 357443.