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Frederick Douglass Civil Rights Festival launched in Wexford town

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At the planting of a tree in Min Ryan Park to mark the launch of the Frederick Douglass Wexford Civil Rights Festival in November were Edward Barker, Deirdre Barker, Cllr Garry Laffan, Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Leonard Kelly, Aisling Wallace, Cllr Barbara-Ann Murphy, Chairperson of Wexford County Council, Deirdre Wadding, Lindy Duff and Mico Hassett.

At the planting of a tree in Min Ryan Park to mark the launch of the Frederick Douglass Wexford Civil Rights Festival in November were Edward Barker, Deirdre Barker, Cllr Garry Laffan, Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Leonard Kelly, Aisling Wallace, Cllr Barbara-Ann Murphy, Chairperson of Wexford County Council, Deirdre Wadding, Lindy Duff and Mico Hassett.

At the planting of a tree in Min Ryan Park to mark the launch of the Frederick Douglass Wexford Civil Rights Festival in November were Cllr Leonard Kelly, Lindy Duff, Aisling Wallace, Cllr Garry Laffa, Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Barbara-Ann Murphy Chairperson, Wexford County Council, Mico Hassett, Deirdre Wadding, Deirdre Barker and Edward Barker.

At the planting of a tree in Min Ryan Park to mark the launch of the Frederick Douglass Wexford Civil Rights Festival in November were Cllr Leonard Kelly, Lindy Duff, Aisling Wallace, Cllr Garry Laffa, Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Barbara-Ann Murphy Chairperson, Wexford County Council, Mico Hassett, Deirdre Wadding, Deirdre Barker and Edward Barker.

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At the planting of a tree in Min Ryan Park to mark the launch of the Frederick Douglass Wexford Civil Rights Festival in November were Edward Barker, Deirdre Barker, Cllr Garry Laffan, Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Leonard Kelly, Aisling Wallace, Cllr Barbara-Ann Murphy, Chairperson of Wexford County Council, Deirdre Wadding, Lindy Duff and Mico Hassett.

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The Mayor of Wexford Cllr Garry Laffan and County County chairperson Cllr Barbara Ann Murphy jointly launched the annual Frederick Douglass Civil Rights Festival which will take place from Friday, November 26 to Sunday, November 28, with a programme of public events.

The festival which was established in 2018 commemorates the historic visit to Wexford in October 1845 of the famous runaway slave, abolitionist and civil rights activist who gave talks in the town’s former Assembly Rooms, now Wexford Arts Centre.

The founders are Deirdre Barker and her husband Ed who has a deceased brother called Frederick Douglass and that  personal interest led them to discovering the Douglass connection to Wexford when they came to live here seven years ago.

At the launch in Wexford Arts Centre, Deirdre,  said that 176 years ago,  Douglass spoke in this very building for two nights running, his spirit, inspirational words and truth still ringing out in Wexford thanks to the festival founded in his name, of which she is chairperson. A special tree was planted in Min Ryan Park to mark the occasion.

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She said Douglass was introduced in Dublin to Daniel O’ Connell who invited him to speak at the end of his own public address and and he was inspired for the rest of his life by this meeting, becoming known as the “ Black O’ Connell”, 

He was also transformed from a single-issue activist to a campaigner for civil rights everywhere, for everyone. He was ahead of his time, particularly in his campaigning for the rights of women.

Deirdre said Douglass was also transformed by Ireland and said it was the first place and time where he was treated and felt like a man.

“Douglass’ lifelong battle cry was ‘agitate, agitate, agitate’  and we have taken it up in Wexford.  Tonight we are launching our 2021 festival programme – an exciting line up of events to be delivered live here in the arts Centre on Friday 27 and Sunday 29 and in Clayton Whites hotel on Saturday 28.

“The ethos of this festival was always that it should be accessible to all. It costs €3 per event or €10 for a full festival ticket – the cost of three coffees.

“Our committee and associate members are all local activists in their own right. They have brought their skills and passions to create this programme which is both historical in perspective but also highly relevant to the issues which move activists today in Ireland and in Wexford.

This year, the keynote speaker is Senator Eileen Flynn, the first member of the Traveller community to hold an Oireachtas position.

For the first time, the festival is reaching out to two secondary schools who are exhibiting their artwork and their responses to Amanda O’ Gorman’s poem delivered at US  President Joe Biden’s inauguration, in the Creative Hub from November 24 to December 2.

Deirdre has appealed for financial support for the festival, saying it operates on good will, passion and a shoestring budget. 

“We are creating a tourist trail along with Dublin, Belfast and Cork, which should appeal to Americans. We have established connections with the African American Irish Diaspora network and the esteemed historian Christine Keneally. We have huge potential to develop further. Councillors, we need you to get behind us financially. Wexford will benefit and take the credit”, she said.

Tickets for the festival  and information are available at wexfordartscentre.ie


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