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17th Donegal Bay & Blue Stacks Festival opens this weekend

Blue stack Festival 


This weekend see’s the opening of the 17th Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival. The festival  is funded by Donegal County Council and The Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaíon. It is presented each autumn by Donegal County Council, in partnership with a wide range of cultural and community development partner organizations, throughout South and South West Donegal.


This years programme is packed with theatre, music of all kinds, spectacle, literary and visual events and events for children.



New Theatre  in Killybegs and Bundoran.

The organisers are especially excited with the fishing community themed co-production with An Grianán Theatre, ‘Shoot the Gear’, which will open the Festival in Killybegs on Thursday night, September 28 and will run nightly at 8.00pm at the Fish Auction Hall until Saturday, September 30.


The play has been created from stories, memories and reminiscences gathered from among the fishing community in Killybegs, by An Grianán Theatre’s  theatre-artist-in-residence, Guy Le Jeune.  


The Shoot the Gear project has been facilitated by the Killybegs Fishermens Organization, whose support has proved crucial in gaining access to, and the trust of a broad range of people connected to the industry, from fishermen and their wives and families, to buyers and sellers, net makers and menders, boatyard men, harbour staff, factory workers and more. 


Shoot The Gear will be performed by a multi-talented cast of local Donegal actors, singers, musicians, Fionn Robinson, Louise Connaghan, Orlaith Gilchreest and Ronan Carr. Come along and enjoy a night of original songs, laughter and stories drawn from the real life experiences of the fishing community of Killybegs.



There will also be a brand new theatre show in Bundoran on Friday the 29. Maura Logue’s ‘End Of The Line – O’Connell’s Dance Hall 1957’ which recalls the last days of the Great Northern Railway and dancehall days by the seaside in Donegal. The play will be showing  at the Atlantic Aparthotel from 9pm.


This play recreates a typical night in the life of O’Carrolls Dancehall where it’s time to get the swing skirts on and the hair slicked back as the audience mingles with and eavesdrops on the goings-on among a cast of characters typical of the era, including merry widows, shy batchelors, young bucks and jiving maidens.  


The production is presented by Dark Daughter Productions, in association with Magh Éne Historical Society, and is part of the on-going Bundoran Express Railway Heritage Festival.  



Touring Theatre – Balor Rep and Donegal Drama Circle

Theatre companies on the road are always a welcome facet of the Festival and this year promises a pair of very special treats.


First off are the Balor Rep who open their hugely entertaining Ray Cooney comedy, ‘Why Not Stay For Breakfast?’ at the Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey on Wednesday and Thursday night, September 27 -28. 


Thereafter they play the Abbey Arts Centre, Ballyshannon on Wednesday, October 4, Ionad Teampall Chróine, Dungloe on Friday, October 6 and Halla Mhuire, Gleann Choilm Cille on Sunday, October 8.


Meanwhile, Donegal Drama Circle makes the short trip to Inver to stage their production of David Mamet’s classic play, American Buffalo, at Inver Community Centre.  The company enjoyed great success at this venue last year with Martin McDonagh’s Cripple of Inishmaan and they are looking forward very much to their return visit.


The cast includes company stalwarts Christian Carbin (who also directs) and Conor Friery, and are joined by young local actor Oisín Joyce.



Music and Literary

A particularly strong music programme boasts performances by Donegal’s 2017 TG4 Gradam Ceoil Award winners, Rita Gallagher and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the Donegal Voices Choir (performing Handel’s Coronation Anthems), In Their Thousands, Honor Heffernan, Siobhán Peoples, Aidan O’Donnell, the Common Grounds Collective, West Coast Jazz, Breandan Quinn, Ted Ponsonby and a tribute to the great Carrigart balladeer and fiddle player John McGettigan, who was a huge star on the Irish American music scene in the 1920s and 30s.


Visiting and local writers participating will include Annemarie Ní Churreáin, performing the Donegal launch of her debut poetry collection, Bloodroot, RTÉ Sunday Miscellany regular Denise Blake and short story writers Gerard O’Beirne and Alan McMonagle.  They will be reading at the Abbey Arts Centre, Ballyshannon on Sunday afternoon, October 8.



Honor and Dorothy

Top Irish jazz singer and actress Honor Heffernan will open the Music Programme with a special performance of her acclaimed Dorothy Parker themed show, The Whistling Girl ( ‘A Celebration of the Works of Dorothy Parker’), at the Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey on Friday night, September 29.


She will be accompanied by a world class ensemble, featuring Irish jazz musicians including Trevor Knight (keyboards), Garvan Gallagher (double bass), Ed Deane (guitar), Ciaran Wilde and Bill Blackmore (brass and horns) and Tom Jamieson (drums).



Rita and Mairéad

One of the highlights of the Music Programme promises to be the special night of traditional song and music at the Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey on Thursday, October 5.


This will celebrate Donegal’s fabulous double win at this year’s Gradam Ceoil TG4 Traditional Music Awards, with longtime Crossroads resident and Frosses native Rita Gallagher who received the Amhránaí na Bliana/Traditional Singer of the Year award and Gaoth Dobhair singer, musician and Altan founder-member, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, who won the overall Gradam Ceoil/Traditional Musician of the Year award.



Visual and Carnival

Thanks to the inaugural Che Abú Festival in Ardara, the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Dr. Hermes Herrera Hernández will be the Guest of Honour at the Official Opening of Emer O’Shea’s fabulous ‘From Celebrating Cuba – From The Bluestacks to The Carribean’, a photographic exhibition at the Abbey Arts Centre on Saturday evening, October 7.


That’s also Carnival Parade Night in Ballyshannon. This year’s theme is a tribute to the Erneside town’s most famous literary son William Allingham, with Carnival making a contemporary response to one of his best-loved poems, The Fairies.


Carnival Workshops and rehearsals are well under way in Ballyshannon and Bundoran, led by a team of dedicated facilitators under the direction of carnival producers, Dark Daughter Productions. Up to 200 prospective performers , including students from Magh Éne College Bundoran, Coláiste Cholm Cille Ballyshannon, visiting students to Ireland from the Donegal Language School Study Abroad Programme, ID Languages and the Turf ‘n’ Surf USA Gap Year Students, as well as performers from many local adult community groups, including Ernedale Heights Womens Group and the Adult Artists Group,  are participating with great enthusiasm in workshops led by artists and makers Tom Meskell, Fidelma Flannely, Marie Loughlin, Stephanie Pawula, Niamh Currid, Corey McDermot and Michelle Bell.



Carnival Finalé

The Carnival Finalé,’ Where Fairies Play’, has been devised and produced by Maria Loughlin and directed by Michelle Bell. It will offer a narrative and dance drama that focuses on the Thorn Tree and its magical fairy power, as mentioned in William Allinghams’ poem. With Thorn Tree sculpture by Diarmaid Flaherty (Blue Raincoat Theatre) and music by Alain Finan and Niamh Currid with the TY Drummers.



FREE Festival Programme

The FREE Festival Programme is widely available throughout the South and South West of the county.  Look out for it in local shops, libraries, hotels, restaurants, tourist information points and at all participating venues. 


The full Festival Programne is availabe here.


Facebook: @BlueStacksFestival

Hashtag: #DBBF

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