The seaside town of Bangor Co. Down is getting ready for the hottest month on its calendar when the sixth annual Open House Festival begins on Wednesday 1st August.
Throughout the 31 days of August, Open House will host 144 music, literary, food & drink, theatre, film and art events in and around the town.
Open House Festival
The first big weekend sees The Waterboys return to Bangor 30 years after their last appearance in the town – this time playing an open-air concert on the seafront, overlooking the marina. This is the first of three large outdoor concerts on the seafront during the month. American/Icelandic singer-songwriter, John Grant, plays on Sunday 19th August, with support from acclaimed singer and electronic composer, Hannah Peel (who has recently moved to Bangor) as well as the Open House Festival Choir.
Headline Guests & Performers
On Saturday 25th August, punk icon John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, brings his band Public Image Ltd to Northern Ireland for the first time, with support from The Undertones, XSLF and The Outcasts. That afternoon, John will talk to Bangor author and former punk Colin Bateman, in a special interview and Q&A session at the Marine Court Hotel, overlooking the site of the concert.
“We’re thrilled that our three big weekend concerts have attracted so much attention locally, nationally and even globally,” says Festival Director, Kieran Gilmore. “We’ve had tickets bought by people in Canada, America and various European countries, as well as the rest of the UK and Ireland. So this year, Open House Festival is well and truly putting Bangor on the map as an international cultural tourism destination.”
Other headline guests appearing throughout the month include singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, former Thin Lizzy guitarist, Eric Bell, the women’s rights activist and great-granddaughter of leading suffragist, Emmeline Pankhurst, DR Helen Pankhurst, and the man in the famous white suit, Martin Bell, OBE. The lineup of top local artists and performers includes King Cedar, aka Stephen Macartney, The Darkling Air, Mandy Bell, daughter of the late David McWilliams who has just launched her debut album, Kitt Phillipa, Manukahunney Blue, mentalist Joel Mawhinney, comedian Nuala McKeever, authors Patrick Gregg and Emma Heatherington and poet Moyra Donaldson.
“Of course Open House Festival isn’t just about headliners and big concerts,” explains Kieran. “They’re obviously a vital component, but so are our smaller bespoke events like Folk on a Boat, Crossing The Lough – the story of the first person to swim across Belfast Lough, Bangor Rocks – a specially curated music inspired bus tour of the town, and our hugely popular food and drink events.”
More than one third of this year’s events are free, from music gigs to picnics and art exhibitions to workshops, and 75 of all events in the programme finish in time to get the last train back to Belfast. And in a festival first, Translink are running a special pre-book midnight bus to the Europa Buscentre after The Waterboys concert on Friday 3rd August.
6th Consecutive Year
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Richard Smart commented: “It is fantastic to see the Open Festival back in Bangor for the sixth consecutive year where it will provide an array of cultural events and activities for all ages and interests.
“The festival has grown from strength to strength bringing Bangor alive with an exciting mix of international artists, home grown talent and household names. This year three outdoor concerts have been introduced to the festival line up as well as a brand new initiative called Seaside Revival: Bangor-by-the-sea which will allow people to tap into the nostalgia of Bangor’s past through a number of vintage inspired events. I am very much looking forward to welcoming visitors to the Borough as well as seeing our many local businesses flourish through the duration of the festival this August.”
Power of the Arts
Maria McAlister, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “With its eclectic range of music, visual arts, literature and family-friendly events, Open House Festival, now in its 6th year, has firmly established itself as an annual summer highlight in Bangor attracting high-quality, world-class international acts. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific festival which demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities closer together as well as being a tool for economic regeneration.”
Terence Brannigan, Tourism NI Chairman commented: “Tourism NI is proud to support the 6th annual Open House Festival which attracts thousands of visitors, both locally and internationally to Bangor every August. This home-grown festival which works with more than 100 local businesses, showcases a huge range of local and international talent, with a packed programme of events from visual art to food and drink and comedy to local history. Events such as the Open House Festival are so important in raising the profile of our tourism offering in Northern Ireland and generating significant economic impact and I wish the organisers, sponsors and attendees another successful year.”
Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent Crowned at 2021 Balmoral Show
The Most Appropriately Dressed competition returned this year to the Balmoral Show and once again it proved to be a hit with visitors, with a record number of entries.
Taking place on Saturday 25th September, Cool FM’s Melissa Riddell had the difficult task of judging the Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent. A range of fabulous prizes were on offer, with the overall winners of each category receiving a stylish country outfit provided by title competition sponsor Dubarry of Ireland as well as a luxury two night stay with B&B and one evening meal provided by Ireland’s Blue Book.
This year’s Most Appropriately Dressed Lady was won by Caroline Martin from Tempo while Robert Wallace from Ballynahinch was crowned the Most Appropriately Dressed Gent. Runner-up winners were Ellen Deery from Dundalk and Alan Martin from Hertfordshire.
On the day, the Flower Wall was kindly provided by the Blossom Lane Co, Hillsborough.
Tourism NI Equips Industry for Incentive Travel Excellence
Tourism NI and The Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Ireland have joined forces to deliver an educational initiative to support the tourism industry here as it continues to recover and rebuild, and with the aim of securing business from high value tourism markets.
The Certified Incentive Specialist qualification from SITE is the first stage of a programme of activity designed to further develop the incentive tourism industry in Northern Ireland, provide networking and destination awareness opportunities, as well as equip businesses with the knowledge to deliver motivational travel experiences for future clients.
Participants included Glenshane Country Farm, Titanic Belfast, Larchfield Estate, Hilton Hotel Belfast, Linen Mill Studios, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, Taste & Tour, Clayton Hotel Belfast, Visit Derry, Hastings Hotels, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and Killeavey Castle.
The partnership agreement between Tourism NI and SITE Ireland first launched in 2020 and has been extended to 2022 due to demand.
Eimear Callaghan, Business Solutions Manager at Tourism NI commented:
“We are pleased to announce the continuation of our valued partnership with SITE Ireland. This is a very challenging time for the tourism industry and our relationship with SITE offers opportunities on a global platform to promote Northern Ireland as a world class Incentive Travel destination to international clients looking for new programmes from the island of Ireland. Incentive Travel is focused on amazing experiences and through Northern Ireland Embrace a Giant Spirit, we have a range of immersive experiences well suited to this market.”
She added: “At Tourism NI, we continue to work with a range of key strategic stakeholders to position Northern Ireland as a destination of choice for MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and Exhibitions). This business is lucrative, with the average MICE delegate worth on average three times that of the leisure visitor.
“I congratulate the 15 industry representatives who successfully completed their CIS certification, and we look forward to delivering further opportunities for our industry together with SITE Ireland.”
Michael Dalton, Immediate Past President, SITE Ireland, added:
“SITE Ireland is extremely grateful for the commitment of Tourism Northern Ireland to the professional development of the industry in the Incentive Sector. The Incentive Travel Industry is very niche and can be hard to grasp. The Certified Incentive Specialist Course provides all the knowledge anyone working in this sector should possess.
“It is the most lucrative segment and highest spend of all Business Tourism. Great to now have 30 Certified Incentive Specialists in Northern Ireland. This is sure to provide clients with the confidence of a destination that delivers exceptional incentive experiences, understands the value of incentive travel and is 100% incentive ready.”