Saturday 16 December 2017

Festival dedicated to celebrating 'Mayo-ness' to thrill in the West next bank holiday weekend

Mayo Day Celebrations. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin
Mayo Day Celebrations. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin Newsdesk Newsdesk

IT started off two years ago as a novel initiative to celebrate one of Ireland’s most rugged and best-loved western counties.

But this year’s ‘Mayo Day’ celebration has turned into a full-on bank holiday weekend festival of cultural and historical events aimed at drawing in visitors from across Ireland – whatever their county colours.

‘Mayo Day’, which this year is spread over three days, will see arts, history, music and street theatre come alive to celebrate a special sense of 'Mayo-ness' at home and abroad.

Enda Kenny might be the local celebrity but this year’s guest of honour is French ambassador to Ireland Jean-Pierre Thébault, as Mayo celebrates its 200-plus year connections to France.

As well as a local and global campaign to light buildings in the colours of the western county, Mayo pubs will be serving green and red cocktails from April 28 through April 30.

To add to the excitement, local groups and historical societies will also be staging full-blooded re-enactments of past battles against the English.

Westport will stage an outdoor concert and fireworks spectacular while Ballina and Westport will also host free concerts – all coming under the social media hashtag #MayoDay.

In 1798, French General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert led a military force to Ireland in a doomed effort to overthrow English rule. A major academic conference at GMIT in Castlebar will mark the event and feature free talks from experts and academics based at the famous Sorbonne University in Paris, NUIG and Trinity College Dublin.

The weekend will also see a series of formal wreath-laying ceremonies to commemorate the dead of 1798 and a look back at the life of Mayo man John Moore, who General Humbert appointed the first-ever President of Connacht.

Organisers Mayo County Council have ensured that the bank holiday weekend programme is packed with plenty of family-friendly events that will bring culture and history to life – for locals and tourists.

Castlebar will experience a French takeover throughout the weekend with live French music, food, street theatre for children and historical battle re-enactments taking place in period costume.

Key highlights include:

* A Living History Village with people in 18th century costume and a battle re-enactment of the Races of Castlebar

* An Irish and French Street Spectacle on Sunday

* The L’arbre de La Liberté Conference, at GMIT with speakers including Dr. Sylvie Kleinman of Trinity College, Mathieu Ferradou of the Paris-Sorbonne University and Dr. Adrian Frazier of  NUI Galway.

* Street theatre for children and a string of other activities including Up, Up and Away – a self-guided family workshop to make a hot-air balloon, a mode of travel which General Humbert was apparently very fond of.

Other events across Mayo include a live outdoor concert in the Military Quarter, Ballina, featuring Ryan Sheridan and the Gig Rig at the Quay in Westport which will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display at 10pm.

For more information on the festival's line-up visit

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