The announcement of a major, new ‘countryside festival’ for Ballykelly is expected to be made next week, the Sentinel can reveal.
Behind the scenes consultation between Limavady Borough Council and Countryside Festivals Ltd - the organisation that has been staging the highly popular Northern Ireland Countryside Festival at Lisburn - have been ongoing since the New Year. When confirmed later this month, the village of Ballykelly, and the site of the former Shackleton army barracks, will be confirmed as the venue for the two-day festival which is expected to attract thousands.
Organisers say the new North West Countryside Festival will be modelled on the successful festival that has been running for eighteen years in the Lisburn City Council area and which has established itself as the biggest event of its kind anywhere in Ireland.
Speaking to the Sentinel, one of the organisers, Bill Beckett, said that Countryside Festivals Ltd is not planning for the event to be a ‘one off’.
“We’ve been holding the festival in Moira in County Down for 18 years so that gives you something of an idea of our long-term planning and ambition”, he said. “This isn’t going to be a one off. We’ve identified a gap in the market and we’re hoping to be back year after year.”
A spokesperson for the company continued: “We have been considering a second event in Northern Ireland for some time now and the opportunity for using the Shackelton site at Ballykelly has provided us with a central venue for this new festival. The positive response from Limavady Borough Council and many other stakeholders in the region has persuaded us that this is an excellent location for this annual show which we plan to grow into an international event for the region.
“Limavady and indeed the North West Region have never had such an event staged there and this will be a major tourist attraction for the region.”
Local Councillor Tony McCaul welcomed the news, saying: “The organisers of this Festival did a presentation to council last week and I was very impressed with what they had to offer. Along with the usual musical offerings which will be mostly country other activities include,arts and crafts,stalls and lots of children’s activities.This event will be truly family orientated. The organisers have a great track record with very successful events in Lisburn and Banbridge.” Councillor McCaul continued “The north west region is becoming more dependent on tourism and with a facility such as Shackelton on our doorstep we need to encourage as many people to the area which will help local businesses to thrive and put this region on the map. More information on this two day festival will be available soon”
A spokesperson for the organisers told the Sentinel: “Already organised are more than 150 stalls from all parts of Ireland and GB who have committed to the new event. They offer country clothing, cars and 4x4 vehicles, fishing and shooting equipment, crafts and ceramic, food and wines, ladies fashion, children’s entertainment, gardening products and much more besides. Many are familiar with the Lisburn event and are keen to travel to the North West with the organisers. More from the North West Region are expected to book stands as news of the festival becomes known locally.
“In addition to traditional country sports events; such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, air rifle shooting, fishing, falconry, gundogs, equestrian and terrier and lurcher events there will be a Food Festival featuring local, artisan food producers, a Crafts and Antiques Festival, the Finn McCool Strongman Festival hosted by ten times Britain’s Strongest Man, Glenn Ross. Planned too are pet shows, a Music Festival, rural living displays and a host of have-a-go events for all the family.
“Centre stage at the NW Countryside Festival will be an unrivalled mixture of acts in the Festival’s Main Arena, including the Knights of the Damned Medieval Jousting display, The Drakes of Hazard, a dog and duck herding exhibition from Scotland, visits from local hunts with huntsmen and hounds, the Scruff’s pet dog show, gundog handling demonstrations, terrier racing and live music.
“Organisers are keen to involve local clubs from the region to participate in the Festival which is expected to attract around 10,000 visitors in its first year with those numbers rising in subsequent years as the event establishes itself as a major summer festival in the area.
“Around 300 plus bed nights will be generated in local hotels, Bed and Breakfast and self-catering cottages as a result of the festival, with many of those coming from out-of-state and from the southern counties of Northern Ireland supporters travel to the new event.
“The border counties of Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim will be targeted by organisers and Council as potential visitor sources. In addition, an estimated £300,000 will be generated in the events first year for the Limavady area.
“The North West Countryside Festival’s website is located at www.countrysidefestivals.com and will go live early this month as will its Facebook and Twitter social media sites. Local business and clubs who may like to become involved and book trade space or run events within the overall festival should contact the organisers by email at email@example.com.”