The third annual Abhainn Rí Festival programme was launched to an enthusiastic audience in Callan’s Friary Complex on Friday evening.
The start of this year’s 10-day festival on July 27 coincides with the opening of the Olympics, but not to be outdone, the Abhainn Rí committee is organising a street picnic on Callan’s Green Street from where the opening ceremony from London will be projected on to an outdoor screen for all to enjoy.
The opening heritage conference about the famed O’Tunney stone sculptors of the 16th century will also commence on July 27, followed by dancing to The Sheehans in the old Co-op centre.
A very special bit of fun in this year’s festival is an attempt on the Guinness World Record for the number of people participating in a Rock the Boat performance – which has been rescheduled to take place on August 5 instead of July 29 to avoid clashing with Kilkenny’s All-Ireland quarter-final hurling match. The current record is 1,428 people singing and waving their arms to the soulful tune of the Hues Corporation, so the aim will be to have 2,000 people in the Abbey Meadow car park having a great time together in aid of the National Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
On the sporting front, this year’s festival features the John Lockes annual Festival of Juvenile Hurling, on August 5, and the Callan Utd soccer club – on a high since the senior side won the McCalmont Cup – is also holding a soccer blitz for young players on August 4. Unfortunately, this is the summer break for Callan’s boxers but enthusiasts will be able to indulge their passion for the pugilistic arts with Aonghus Og McAnally’s performance of Fight Night in the old Co-op on August 4.
There are lots of Youth activities this year, generated by young people. Older people have been involved in the Wise Ways project that will have its own exhibition and a series of lunch-time guided tours will feature traditional businesses and industries in the town.
The international attraction this year is the amazing world of Nicole and Martin, a Swiss troupe who bring their own White Tent, with home-made ice cream and waffles, and perform well-known fairy tales with a mixture of acrobatics, music and circus skills. They were a sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival and have won awards all over Europe.
The environment, both natural and built, are a feature of Abhainn Rí, and there will be demonstrations of the Life in the River and an exploration of a heritage and nature trail that is being proposed for the Moat Fields. The Coillte forest walk is also an annual highlight. Commonage, an architectural strand of the festival, will also be promoting a number of special events for people interested in how we live in the spaces we create.
The finale of the week, prepared in many inclusive workshops during the festival, is Callan’s Long Night on August 5. This will be a walking tour of the streets and hidden spots of the town, with entertainment, refreshments and all kinds of surprises to be had. There has never been anything quite like it before, and maybe never again.
For more information, see www.abhainnrifestival.com or call 087 9759015. The festival box office opens in the old Co-op on Friday.