2017 Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes

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The Examiner caught up with Irish singer-songwriter Damien Leith today, who will take the festival by storm at 8pm at the Sapphire Marquee.

At the standing stones, newlyweds Jason and Caitlin Nicholson tied the knot in a tradition Celtic ceremony.

And, at the Grand Parade, Glen Innes icon Jan Sharman celebrated her 80th birthday with family and friends and told The Examiner about her years of dedication to the community.

Are you ready for the festival?

The 25th Australian Celtic Festival is finally here.

And the Glen Innes Visitor Centre was in high gear on Wednesday.

Ticket sales are remaining strong but Australian Celtic Festival committee president Lara Gresham said there’s no limit on the discounted residents passes or the friends and family passes.

Ms Gresham said she’s particularly keen to catch last year’s International Artist of the Year, Clan Celtica.

“It’s mostly drums and I’m a drummer, so it’s close to my heart,” she said.

Ms Gresham said organisers aimed to include award winners in the entertainment line-up, and Clan Celtica will be performing “all over the place”.

If drumming’s not quite your style, she said the program contains different things for different people, with a mix of Celtic favourites like Murphy’s Pigs and new acts including Damien Leith, who’s performing for the first time at the festival.

GOING IRISH: Tina Woolfe, Lara Gresham, Mary Hollingworth and Christine Dance preparing at the Visitor Information Centre as the Celtic Festival arrives. Photo: Donna Ward.

GOING IRISH: Tina Woolfe, Lara Gresham, Mary Hollingworth and Christine Dance preparing at the Visitor Information Centre as the Celtic Festival arrives. Photo: Donna Ward.

Mayor Steve Toms said he was also looking forward to the festival and congratulated the committee for their tireless efforts. 

“I say a very big thank-you for putting your hearts and massive effort into this festival,” he said.

Mr Toms also acknowledged everyone from the Glen Innes Severn Council to the Standing Stones Management Board, the Services Club and all the local businesses who get behind the event.

“It is a significant event and it certainly is growing,” he said.

Ms Gresham said she had seen much more community involvement this year, with the rugby league club opening up Mead Park for campers, the Pony Club and Netball Club catering the festival BBQ on Friday and Saturday night respectively, generating funds for them.

Quota is providing the hospitality for entertaining at the site and overseeing their merchandise sales, and of course the Lions, Leo and Lionesses will again have their catering van on-site.

The Hospital Auxiliary will be catering the Celtic Dance at the Town Hall, with the Barley Shakers bringing the action.

“Ireland and Scotland tend to be the biggest years, and the 25th anniversary is also drawing others,” Ms Gresham said.

Celtic Awards take the stage

It’s a year of milestone anniversaries for the Celtic Music Awards, now incorporated into the Official Celtic Awards Night. The awards are celebrating 10 years of the Triquetra Awards and five years of Celtic Music Awards.

The big night is on this Saturday from 6.30pm at the Glen Innes and District Services Club, but if you don’t already have your $40 tickets call the club on (02) 6732 1355 as soon as possible.

The awards celebrate the best in Celtic music not only Australia-wide but also internationally. Organiser Julie Clement said there’s lots of quality nominations and to expect a few surprises when the awards are announced. Among the nominees are duo Emma Nixon and Iain McKenzie (up for Album of the Year for Black Bear) and Michael Fix (for his instrumental Bushwacked), as well as the Roving Crows, Borderers, the wonderfully-named String-loaded Celtic Fiddle Band, Siobhan Owen and Sarah Moir, matriarch of the String Family which is also a guest performer on the night.

The Glen Innes Visitor Centre is buzzing with festival ticket and merchandie sales as people pour into town.

The Glen Innes Visitor Centre is buzzing with festival ticket and merchandie sales as people pour into town.

In addition to the music awards the 2017 recipients of the Triquetera Awards will the announced, honouring those who have contributed to the Celtic community and culture. The Triquetra Medallion is bestowed on someone with a connection to the Celtic Festival but also with achievements in the wider Celtic community and has demonstrated their knowledge of Celtic history and its relevance to both contemporary and historical Australian life. Last year’s recipient was Raelene Watson.

The Triquetra Ambassador Award is performance-related and could be given to an individual or group. The winner must be committed to promoting the Australian Celtic Festival at other Celtic events they attend over the coming the field. Last year it went to Steve Passfield.

The Triquetra Achievement Award goes to someone who has demonstrated a high level of achievement in their field be it performance, Celtic art, linguistics, education, history, event development or staging, marketing or administration.  In 2016 it was awarded to Fay Binns.

Col Lute was last year’s Celtic Roll of Honour inductee, with six new inductees to be announced this year in honour of the 25th anniversary of the Australian Celtic Festival. Mrs Clement said several of the inductees – including Lex Ritchie – are being inducted posthumously and will be represented by family members, making the night particularly poignant.

The other inductees are David Donnelly John Mathew, Malcolm Parsons, Raelene Watson and George Rozynski. Mr Rozynski’s widow Val is even bringing along the signed whiskey bottle used to Christen the first hole dug for the Standing Stones. 

The gorgeous String Family band, including matriarch Sarah Moir who is up for a Celtic Music Award, are guest performers on the awards night.

The gorgeous String Family band, including matriarch Sarah Moir who is up for a Celtic Music Award, are guest performers on the awards night.

The irrepressible and entertaining Darren Coggan will again act as MC, with Mike McClellan also performing. The packed program also includes the presentation of the Australian Celtic dance championships and, for the first time, the winners of the Celtic Fashion Awards.

For those who can’t be a part of Saturday night’s festivities, festival favourite Murphy’s Pigs is providing free entertainment at the club on Friday night from 7.30pm. (Get there early for the traditional haggis toasting ceremony at 6.45pm, followed by a taste of the divisive treat.). Claymore will be entertaining at the club from 7.30pm on Sunday.

History House goes Irish

The Glen Innes History House are gearing up for their Irish night as part of the 25th Celtic Festival.

“We’ve got [Irish musician] Jack O’Leary from Brisbane who will also be appearing at the Stones,” Glen Innes History House’s Eve Chappell said.

“He will be here performing in the courtyard alongside the local pipe band.”

And if the entertainment wasn’t enough to kick those Irish festival vibes well into motion – the food definitely will be.

“We’ll be feeding people the most beautiful authentic Irish food,” Ms Chappell said.

Irish stew, shepherds pie, bread and butter pudding, apple and rhubard crumble and Irish biscuits are on the menu.

“We’ll also have a special raffle that night of Irish whiskey, Irish liquor and Irish books,” Ms Chappell said.

But it’s more than just Thursday night’s entertainment that’s had the museum volunteers busy planning for the past five months.

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Malcolm Wehr, Eve Chappell, Pam Grimes and Steve Gregori in the Celtic room which has an emphasis on Ireland this year as part of the 25th Australian Celtic Festival.

LUCK OF THE IRISH: Malcolm Wehr, Eve Chappell, Pam Grimes and Steve Gregori in the Celtic room which has an emphasis on Ireland this year as part of the 25th Australian Celtic Festival.

“Each day we have morning and afternoon tea,” she said.

“We’re open 9am until 4pm from May 1 to May 8.

“People can just come and serve themselves any of our Irish short breads, Welsh cakes, Irish biscuits and more.”

The team have also prepared a special display of Irish style embroidery and crochet – called Mount Mellick – made by local lady Marie Wharton.

“She is teaching people various bobbin lace,” Ms Chappell said.

And if you’re looking to see whether you’ve got any Irish ancestry, the History House has that sorted too.

“We’ve put together a booklet on researching Irish ancestors,” she said.

“Anyone who comes up here, no matter where they come from, we can do research into their ancestry.”

Every year the volunteers at the History House take part in the Celtic Festival.

“We have all the Celtic nations in a special room with their flags and of course this year we have an emphasis on Ireland,” Ms Chappell said.

They also have displays in the CBD including two window displays showcasing the museum and the Celtic Festival.

Glen Innes & District Historical Society president Malcolm Wehr told The Examiner the festival provided a chance for visitors to see what the museum had to offer.

“There is an incredible amount of information here,” he said.

“We have 26 rooms of various sizes and huge resources.”

Mr Wehr and Ms Chappell are preparing for huge numbers of visitors to the museum over the next week.

“After Thursday night they will start pouring through,” Ms Chappell said.

Fashion First

The big Official Australian Celtic Awards Night at the Glen Innes and District Services Club showcase the best in Celtic music and dance, and now fashion.

The inaugural Celtic Fashion Awards are the first of their kind in Australia, as far as Celtic Festival committee chair Lara Gresham is aware. While the theme will change each year, to kick off the awards the call was made for modern evening wear suitable for a red carpet event, with a Celtic twist of course.

Entries came from designers in Armidale and Lismore and from a New England Girls School student. Organisers are hoping to encourage more local entrants in coming years once Glen Innes’s would-be designers get on board with the awards.

Judging took place on Anzac Day, by former chair of the Wool Fashions Awards Liz Foster. Ms Foster happens to have a family connection to Celtic Fashion Awards coordinator Navanka Fletcher.

Ms Foster reported that she was extremely impressed with the quality of the sewing,

“All entries could definitely be seen at red carpet events,” she said.

The winners will be revealed at the Official Australian Celtic Awards night at the Services Club on May 6.

Mrs Gresham said the Celtic Fashion Awards add another layer of interest to the festival.

Standing proud after 25 years

Flags on newly erected poles at the Standing Stones were raised for the first time on Monday – just weeks before the Celtic Festival.

The Isle of Man flag, the flag of NSW, the Australian flag, the flag of Wales and the Australian Aboriginal flag were among those which will now fly as a permanent fixture at the local tourist destination.

“These will stay here as a permanent monument,” Standing Stones Management Board chairperson Judi Toms told The Examiner.

FINALIST: This corset dress was created by Ashley Hansell of Glen Innes. It's among a stunning line-up of Celtic-inspired gowns in the inaugural Celtic Fasion Awards.

FINALIST: This corset dress was created by Ashley Hansell of Glen Innes. It's among a stunning line-up of Celtic-inspired gowns in the inaugural Celtic Fasion Awards.

The ceremony was also a chance to recognise the 25-year anniversary of the Glen Innes Celtic Festival, a milestone that Mrs Toms said was much attributed to the foresight and commitment of those involved in the very beginning.

“Just the foresight of those people who had the idea to start with, work with the Celtic Council of Australia and bring it to fruition is amazing,” she said.

“Glen Innes is known for its volunteerism but I think that’s really putting it out there.”

Mrs Toms said the new flags were just one of many projects that the Standing Stones Management Board and Council were working on to improve opportunities for Glen Innes both culturally and economically.

“There are lots of different ideas like the central plaque now that’s in the ground, these flagpoles, the painting that was done onsite earlier in the year – all of those things are continual upgrades of the project,” she said.

The board is also working on a solar movement project.

“That will be bronze markers in the ground to show the movement of the sun over the six-month period between the summer and winter solstice,” Mrs Toms said.

“It’s all about bringing to fruition various projects that utilise this sight in different ways.”

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, Deputy Mayor Carol Sparks and Mayor Steve Toms also attended the ceremony.

“This very much reflects the spirit of those people that got behind the stones,” Cr Toms said. 

“They saw a vision, they saw the opening and what they developed had so much value and was so well thought through that it’s enduring today.” 

The 25th Celtic Festival kicks off on May 3.

Autumn tones for Celtic Festival

The Glen Innes Art Gallery will be hosting its first exhibition for 2017 when the “Autumn in Glen” exhibition opens on April 22. Artists will be recognising and embodying the local sights, colours and events of autumn in a range of media.

“Autumn in Glen” at the Glen Innes Art Gallery will be held concurrently with a similarly themed exhibition at the Art on the Corner gallery and shop. The members of both organisations recognise an opportunity to inspire our local community and the visitors that come at this time of the year with a cultural bonanza.

Far from being in competition, the two groups recognise the value of expanding choice for artists, and enhancing the experiences for those who come to see and be inspired by their works.

At this time of year, delightful with clear sunny skies and frosty mornings, the Celtic Festival brings thousands of visitors to our town. Visiting local art and craft galleries is a must for visitors, and the Glen Innes Art Gallery and Art on the Corner will be high on their list.

A progressive opening of the two exhibitions will be an exciting new event, and a charming and interesting way to spend your Saturday afternoon on 22 April. Starting at Art on the Corner in Grey St. at 2.30pm, you can soak up the atmosphere of this quirky gallery with its collection of hand printed cards, jewellery and wonderful silk and wool scarves alongside the current exhibition.

Whet your appetite with fresh fruit before wandering on down Grey Street to the Glen Innes Art Gallery. There you will be entertained by the wonderful music and songs of Spirit of the Glen while you enjoy drinks and nibbles, and admire the works in this carefully curated exhibition.

The exhibitions will be open until 12 May.

Festival for 25 years

This year marks the 25th Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes. 

The idea of the festival first came from the original committee as a tool for promoting the Australian Standing Stones. 

“This would attract visitors once a year but, by word of mouth, would encourage visitation all year round,” original committee member Raelene Watson said. 

Over the years the festival has seen many changes, including the length and content of the event, Ms Watson said.

Irene Senent.

Irene Senent.

“Friday afternoon was the official opening, Friday night the tartan ball,” she said.

“Saturday morning was the dawn service, followed by the street parade, then entertainment at the Stones till about 3.30pm. 

“Saturday night there was a concert at the Services Club and Sunday morning Celtic church services, national ceremonies at the Stones, and kirking of the tartan heralded the end of the weekend. How much that has changed since 1995.”

In 1996, Wendy Fahey and Jack Ritchie put in an application for three new events. One, at the suggestion of John Turner, was the sheep dog trials. Another by Desmond Fitzgerald was the strongman event, and with Jo Duck, a Celtic art day. 

“We were successful in this grant, and we still have the sheep dog trials and strongman event still running,” Ms Watson said.

“This also gave us new funding for promotions and the event began to draw more crowds. Another event was the tug-of-war with Malcolm Kerr being the main organiser. We had a couple of state and national titles held here.”

While many of the original committee are now gone, the Australian Standing Stones Management Board has the Rock of Remembrance for those who had served for 10 years. This year, Mr Frank Mitchell will be recognised for his efforts with the building on the site. The Services Club has also acknowledged the hard work of the pioneers, with the Celtic Roll of Honour in the club’s foyer. 

“Without the foresight by these people there would be no festival for Glen Innes to be proud of,” Ms Watson said.

Raelene Watson.

Raelene Watson.