City of Derry Drama Festival

A funding boost from Derry City Council ensures that the amateur drama festival returns to the Waterside Theatre

'We now need support from the people of this city to ensure their drama festival continues to thrive.' A clarion call if ever there was one, but Maureen Gallagher, chairman of the City of Derry Drama Festival (CDDF) knows that these are difficult times for the arts.

After the finale to last year's festival, Gallagher shocked the audience by announcing that the future for the festival looked bleak. For a city in which amateur theatre is so beloved of the younger generations, it was a harsh but realistic epilogue to an otherwise successful festival.

One year on and the CDDF committee has officially announced the launch of the 31st City of Derry Drama Festival, thanks to increased grant aid from Derry City Council. The festival, which has been described as the North West’s premier amateur drama festival, will be held from March 4-12 in the Waterside Theatre.

'Last year’s festival saw a very high standard of drama and increased audience numbers, although we ended on an anxious note,' recalls Gallagher. 'We were very unsure indeed if the curtain would rise again, but rise it has. Derry City Council has always supported the festival, but this year we were able to take advantage of further grant aid without which I doubt very much if we could have staged a 31st festival.'

CDDF also has a competitive edge, with amateur drama groups travelling from all over Ireland to compete for prizes and entry to the All-Ireland Drama Festival, which takes place in Athlone, County Westmeath annually.

Last year’s winners at the CDDF, the Lifford Players, went on to compete in the All-Ireland final, and are back in 2011, this time with Thornton Wilder’s acclaimed play Our Town. They will be joined by companies from throughout Ireland, staging a varied mix of comedy, tragedy and classical works from the pens of internationally respected authors and playwrights.

'As a result of the additional financial support received, the festival committee is once again offering great value for money,' adds Gallagher. 'Tickets for each performance cost £8 (£6 concessionary) while a season ticket that provides entrance to every play of the festival is priced at an amazing £40, a saving of £32 if you were to buy individual tickets for each night.'

It's an intelligent move, developed to attract as many theatre goers to the festival as possible. 'This is a festival that is not just for seasoned theatre goers,' Gallagher comments, 'though they can be assured of high production standards. It is also for those new to theatre who want to experience something different. It is for all ages.

'The festival is also of interest to drama students who will not only see a succession of nine different plays but will also gain insights into the writing and production from the nightly adjudications. Drama students and their teachers living in this city and the surrounding areas simply should not miss this festival.'

Gallagher hopes that audiences heed the siren call of theatre - not only to ensure that the 31st festival runs smoothly, but also in the hopes that the 32nd festival will see the light of day.

The City of Derry Drama Festival runs from March 4-12. Season tickets are now available from the Waterside Theatre box office, phone 028 7131 4000 and the full list of plays is available on the theatre’s website www.watersidetheatre.com.