A jam-packed schedule is on the cards for the Scariff Harbour Festival which is expected to draw a large crowd to East Clare at the end of July.
At the opening of the Waterways Ireland Scariff Harbour Festival the focus is going to be on building bridges. When Sir Anthony Berry MP was killed in the IRA Brighton bombing in 1984, his daughter Jo was thrown into a conflict she knew little about. In November 2000, she first met Patrick McGee, the Provisional IRA man who planted the bomb that tried to eliminate Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet.
McGee has since been involved in peace work, including supporting Jo Berry in her work with Building Bridges for Peace, the charity she founded. Both will address the issue of Building Bridges and officially open Waterways Ireland Scariff Harbour Festival which will be held at the August Bank Holiday weekend.
“Although the festival is broadly based, with something for every member of the family, we have always devoted some time to peace and reconciliation,” said Michael Rodgers, Chairman of the Festival Committee. “Over the years we have had many guests from Northern Ireland and at a time when fractures are appearing in politics and societies all over Europe and elsewhere, we believe it is important to continue building bridges between people”.
Scariff Harbour Festival is organised in association with Waterways Ireland which is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the British Irish Agreement in 1999. The organisation manages, maintains, develops and promotes over 1000km inland navigable waterways principally for recreational purposes. With its Headquarters in Enniskillen, Waterways Ireland has regional offices in Carrick-on-Shannon, Dublin and Scariff.
An incredible and diverse range of thirty six events on land and water will be held over the three days of the festival which will officially open on Friday 29th July. On the previous night in Scariff parish church Tommy Fleming will make a very welcome return to East Clare and can be guaranteed to raise up the audience to soaring vocal heights. Several music events will be staged throughout the festival including a rare concert from Something Happens with Tom Dunne, now a much admired radio presenter with Newstalk.
Buskers are always an attractive feature of the Scariff streets at festival time and the Battle of the Bands promotes young talent and gives upcoming bands an opportunity to perform on a bigger stage with access to professional sound and lighting. Limbering up for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis, set dancers at all levels will batter to the sound of The Kilfenora Céilí Band at the Fair Green in Scariff on Sunday 31st, the final night of the festival.
Sparks will fly at the Battle of the Smiths, as the best blacksmiths demonstrate their ancient skills in bending and shaping iron. East Clare had industry long before the chipboard factory and historian Paul Rondelez, who has done much to research a near forgotten iron industry, will talk about iron and tour some of the historic furnaces which were a feature of the landscape in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The iron furnaces devoured the majestic oak woods of East Clare but some have survived at Raheen Wood and Andrew St. Ledger will walk among the oaks exploring the vision of the 1916 Proclamation in relation to the restoration of our native woodlands. Andrew and Raheen Wood recently featured in the RTÉ series Tracks & Trails with former rugby international Keith Wood from Killaloe.
The Queen of the Waterways contest is hugely popular, this year contestants will be introduced and interviewed by former TV personality, Ciana Campbell. There is always great demand for the Waterways Ireland Boat Tours of Scariff River and Lough Derg and there will be Fishing for Kids, a Kids Fun Zone as well as a Game of three Halves. This was developed in Northern Ireland as a means of bringing young people from different communities together through sport. In the Waterways Ireland Cross-Border Young Anglers’ Competition, 12 – 18 year olds from both sides of the border compete for the David Ervine Perpetual Trophy. Discover Kayaking is a leisurely introduction to the Scariff River, explored from rarely seen vantage points.
There will be a guided walk through the Community Garden to gather ingredients which will be prepared and served al fresco with pizza freshly baked in a traditional wood-fired oven. There’s also an opportunity to watch and take part in displays of traditional crafts and a Street Arts and Crafts Fair will also be organised at the festival.