Ballymoney’s Drama Festival marks 75 years

FESTIVAL SPONSORS. Pictured are sponsors of Ballymoney Drama Festival, who are currently celebrating their 75th Anniversary. They are, Mayor Cllr John Finlay, Chief Executive John Dempsey and Cllr Evelyne Robinson (Ballymoney Borough Council), Rory McCarroll (McCarroll Plant Hire), Pat Hasson, (Hasson Engineering), Neil Robinson, (R.Robinson & Son Architect) and Sue Pinkerton (Pinkerton Solicitors).INBM8-14 001SC.
FESTIVAL SPONSORS. Pictured are sponsors of Ballymoney Drama Festival, who are currently celebrating their 75th Anniversary. They are, Mayor Cllr John Finlay, Chief Executive John Dempsey and Cllr Evelyne Robinson (Ballymoney Borough Council), Rory McCarroll (McCarroll Plant Hire), Pat Hasson, (Hasson Engineering), Neil Robinson, (R.Robinson & Son Architect) and Sue Pinkerton (Pinkerton Solicitors).INBM8-14 001SC.

It has provided a platform for a young unknown Slemish Players actor called Liam Neeson and has attracted some of the finest adjudicators in the UK.

Now Ballymoney Drama Festival is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a splendid line-up of nine nights of amateur theatre.

The Festival was launched at Ballymoney Town Hall last week in front of the Mayor of Ballymoney, Cllr John Finlay, Festival sponsors and guests.

Joint honorary secretary of the Festival and historian Alex Blair gave a history of the event which actually began 80 years ago but is only now celebrating its 75th birthday as the Second World War interrupted the Festival in 1941.

Back in 1934, the first Ballymoney Drama Festival took place in the newly extended Town Hall thanks to the efforts of the clerk of Ballymoney Rural District Council, James Hanna. Mr Hanna was a close friend of playwright George Shiels who supported the Festival all his life.

The first festival was deemed to be a tremendous success with the adjudicator commenting that he envied the committee their audiences as they didn’t “have the like outside of Dublin”.

The success of the Festival grew with it later being described as one of the most “outstanding rural festivals in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Blair recalled the days when Festival tickets were sold from Donaghy’s Chemist in the town and how queues bagan to form at 6am in anticipation of the pharmacy opening at 8.30am!

Mr Blair also outlined how the Festival had battled on through difficult times such as the Second World War, the more recent Troubles and even the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

In conclusion, Mr Blair quoted a former adjudicator who had toasted the Festival on its 50th anniversary with the words “May you make the hundredth”.

Mayor of Ballymoney Cllr John Finlay paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Festival committee and to the sponsors for their continued finanical support.

The Festival runs from February 27th - March 8th. Full details on plays, dates, ticket prices and bookings can be found on the website www.ballymoneydramafestival.com Also, the Times will bring you daily updates via our website, Facebook and Twitter,