New Fountain fringe festival in run up to 'Derry Day' to examine bonfire history

A new fringe festival programmed to take place in the Fountain during the annual Apprentice Boys' 'Derry Day' celebrations will feature a series of talks, a new tour of the Walls and evening of music and dance on the 11th night to try to rekindle the atmosphere of bonfire nights of the past.

Saturday, 29th July 2017, 4:34 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:01 pm

From Monday, August 7, to Saturday, August 12, the New Gate Fringe Festival - based at the New Gate Arts and Cultural Centres in Hawkin Street - will present exhibitions, informative talks with the chance for discussion, tours, music, dance, drama and a family day and evening leading up to the Fountain 'Relief of Derry' bonfire commemoration.

Organised by the North West Cultural Partnership, who are based at New Gate in association with the Fountain Forum, the festival has been funded by the NIO Urban Villages, NIHE, and the International Fund for Ireland through the Londonderry Bands Forum.

The festival has been created to complement the rich festival scene in the city in August.

It coincides with the Maiden City Festival and the Gas Yard Féile and will add variety and choice to the activities offered by these established events.

The festival will also offer an opportunity to explore and engage in discussion about historical and current issues that still have the potential to prolong division.

One of the many highlights in this festival will be a new tour on the City Walls. The new personal narrative devised created by local historian Frank Carey through the Londonderry Bands Forum (LBF) gives an informative and in-depth story of the city giving prominence to buildings, local and international characters who are associated with the city, our rich and turbulent history past and recent past along with a host of anecdotes and facts that are rarely if ever heard on any of the more mainstream tours.

Derek Moore, chair of the NWCP and coordinator of the LBF, said: "Londonderry has a huge amount to be proud off and to tell the rest of the world about.

"Working with Frank and seeing the amount of interesting, funny and sad stories that we can tell about the city made him see that the city is not simply about a two-dimensional history of division but that this city has at times been a leader in the world, and he feels that this story is being largely neglected at this time."

A new exhibition of paintings showing all week in the Thiepval Gallery in Georges Street is the brainchild of Fountain historian William Temple. William’s paintings depict various subjects from around the Fountain reflected through one painting from each decade of the last century.

Two paintings highlight the 'Arrival of the Telegrams from WW1: and the 'Salvation Army parading on Christmas Morning' before they embarked on a city-wide tour each year. The paintings have been created by local artists in their own style and each one is unique in its own way.

A series of talks each evening tackle subjects that could divide opinion depending on outlook.

The first one looks the 'Exodus' of Protestants from the west bank of the city and is hosted by Brian Dougherty former director of St. Columb's Park House.

In another entitled 'Ireland from 1922' Terry Wright's presentation takes a look at what it has really been like for Protestants left behind in the Republic of Ireland after partition.

One of the other talks 'Orange and Green' is hosted by Creggan-native Seamus Breslin and examines the nationalists and loyalists who went to WW1 together and their shared experiences.

Currently one of the main topics for discussion at this time is around bonfires and the New Gate festival will explore this in three different ways.

A character played by an actor in period costume created by playwright Jonathan Burgess, a member of the NWCP, will offer an on street narrative version of why we are having the 'Relief' bonfire and its origins.

Jonathan’s witty and informative script writing should prove popular for tourists and locals alike.

The final talk on the '11th Night' will explore the history and ritual of the bonfire and its significance to culture.

It is hoped that after the festival this talk will tour all the areas in the city, maybe even the country, to raise discussion and informed debate about social and safety issues surrounding bonfires.

Said Mr. Moore: "The final way the festival will look at this subject is the '11th Bonfire' itself.

"An afternoon of activities is planned for families and an evening of music and dance before the fire will, we hope, prove popular, as we try to revive some of the celebratory aspects that were associated with a Fountain 11th night from the past."

During the early evening, the NWCP hope to introduce the first Hobby Horse show jumping championships event to Northern Ireland with prizes for effort.

If this sounds bizarre check the New Gate Facebook page and be astounded.

Programmes are available listing all the events taking place, with times and venues included.

Information is also available on facebook at Londonderry Bands Forum and New Gates Arts and Culture Centre, and via twitter @ newgatearts.

One note of caution is the fact that during the evening talks we will be limited by space so come early to avoid disappointment but also to hear the pre-talk music on offer.