Banbridge Performing Arts Festival is 40 years old this November and to celebrate the event, the Council Chairman, Mrs Olive Mercer, is hosting a special evening on Tuesday night April 29 in the old town hall at 7.30pm.
Planning for the first festival started way back in late 1974 and the first festival took to the stage in November 1975 in the Belmont Hotel.
Forty years later it has gone from strength and is still in the same venue, the Belmont Hotel.
Starting off with just over 400 entries and a limited number of classes, it has now over 2,000 entries annually and almost 100 classes.
These range from favourite poem to Shakespeare, from mime to playlet, from traditional poem to Yeats, from Choral work to characterisation of a poem, from TV news reader to extempore speaking, from a Dickens class to character study and even Seamus Heaney class.
It is now one of the top ten festivals in the UK and Ireland and over the 40 years approximately 70,000 young people have participated.
The special night will include a special poem written for the night, the launch of the new syllabus for this November’s festival and an introduction to a brand new class for 2014.
The organisers have even traced the first performer who was Number 1 in Class 1 on Monday 3 November 1975 who recited “The mouse” in the class for boys and girls under five years.
The evening will end with a special birthday cake and refreshments for all.
The original idea for the festival came from Patricia Mulligan, who is still the secretary after 40 years, and the original committee was composed of Rev W C Lockhart, President, Vice President Eileen Noble, Assistant Secretary Evelyn Nangle, Treasurer Frank Mulligan, Assistant Treasurer Zina Mulligan, PRO Angela Elliott, Committee members Margaret Mulligan, Evelyn Arlow, Mary McAleenan, Beryl Andrews, Jewel Fleming, Dympna Fitzpatrick, Geraldine McClory and Councillors Lennon, McCartan, Cowan and Anderson.
Over that time there was a multitude of helpers too numerous to mention but the organisers are hoping to see many on the night.
Anyone who helped in any way please contact Patricia Mulligan on 028 406 23748 and feel free to come along on the night.
The present committee would like to see as many as possible on the night as a thank you for their hard work and also an opportunity to renew old friendships.