The 39th Banbridge Performing Arts [Speech and Drama] festival, one of the largest in the UK and Ireland, finished on Friday night (November 8) with some exciting and close final competitions. The festival, which was the brainchild of Patricia Mulligan, started off 39 years ago in a very small way in the front dining room of the Belmont Hotel but with the help of a very enthusiastic and hard working committee, great support from a far seeing local council and entries from a wide area, it has grown and grown.
There was a packed house of over 300 to hear all the champion prize winners who had come back to compete for the overall awards and some of the main highlights were invited back to compete for the McKay Kenny Award, a specially designed trophy which is voted by the audience once they have seen all acts. St Patrick’s Primary School scooped the trophy for their choral work.
The fireside quiz introduced by Stuart McFadden raised a much needed £195 to help pay for the festival which this year cost over £13,000 to run. The competition of The Pentathlon classes, which involved competing in 5 different and nominated classes and which bring with them bursaries of £100 was very close! Only ONE MARK separated the top 2 junior competitors. In the junior class Jodie Simmons won the £100 bursary with 428 marks and Hollie McConville won the £100 senior class with 429 marks. The ‘Spirit of the Festival’ Award was presented by Festival Secretary, Mrs Patricia Mulligan to committee member Eileen Johnston who displayed the spirit of the festival when she came on to help the festival despite a personal injury that morning.
The Council Chairman, Mrs Olive Mercer, presented the Council Cup for the most promising speaker over 12 to Katie Turner. The winners of all the test pieces, all the champions, all came back to compete for the overall awards in the Battle of the champions in the afternoon. The president pointed out that for the ‘champions’ to get to the final, they had to beat nearly 1000 other competitors. Oisin McDonald was the overall champion of classes 3-12 and was presented with the Wellworth Shield. Rose Widdis became the overall champion of classes 23-34 and won the St. Patrick’s ladies discussion Group Shield while Gareth Macauley ended up as overall champion of classes 13-18 and received the Gloria Joy trophy. Grace Husarz was most promising under 12, Katie Turner the most promising over 12, most promising boy was Michael Morrow and from the primary schools was St Patrick’s School choral choir.
The premier award of the festival is always the Patricia Mulligan trophy which goes to the highest mark in the whole festival. This year three performers tied on 89 marks and there had to be second competition to decide the winner and Joshua Moles won.