Strabane Buzzing With Culture

Strabane proves that the best things in life really are free at Culture Night 2011

An explosion of music, singing, dancing and storytelling made sure that people living in the West didn’t miss out on this year’s Culture Night festivities.

A variety of events took place in Strabane, Sion Mills, Killeter, Donemana, Bready, Newtownstewart and Plumbridge – in fact it was difficult to choose which to attend.

In Strabane, hundreds of people turned up to get in on the action. The night got off to a flying start at Strabane Library with Declan Forde who told interesting stories of what life was like in the Sperrins.

Accordion duet Missing Time followed closely after with plenty of music and some dancing to take things up a notch.

There was also plenty to see in terms of visual art, with the Strabane Camera Club’s exhibition at the Alley Theatre.

Local photographer Treasa Giblin’s exhibited in the Farmers Home Bar, an exhibition which illustrated her travels around Iceland, Romania and Africa over the past two years.

Although there was plenty more on offer in Strabane, a free bus service arrived to ship people around various other highlights and the next stop was Plumbridge for ‘Craic in the Harvest’.

The event, which took place in Plumbridge Hall, showed exactly what Culture Night is all about. The venue, which was decorated with hay and flowers, had a distinct feel of local culture and community.

When we arrived, the night had already kicked off with a traditional music session. Local musicians joined together with others from Strabane, Omagh, Gortin, Cranagh and other villages.

While the crowd started off quite small, it wasn’t long before word travelled and passers-by and people from the local pubs joined in and there was a packed village hall which had become alive with the sounds of fiddles, banjos, tin whistles, guitars and the bodhran.

A local family showcased their Irish dancing talents and the Blue Thistle Dancers in Drumquin also displayed some Highland dancing. After some more traditional music, there was a bit of a sing-song which included an impromptu performance by a lady who had travelled on the bus from Strabane!

Many of those who had gathered at the other events in Strabane and around the district took advantage of the free bus service and came together to see Donegal folk singer Patricia Morris and her band at Newtownstewart Golf Club.

The journey was definitely worthwhile, with the band putting on an electric show with Irish and Scottish roots.

To end the night, local Strabane comedian Ruairi Woods took to the stage at the Alley Theatre with his show Strabanimal: Born and Raised. Cue plenty of jokes about the trials and tribulations of everyday life in Strabane and Northern Ireland, the joys of family and the dire job situation.

The laughter continued to the late hours and everyone left Culture Night with a smile on their face.

While it would have been impossible to have seen everything that was on offer, it was uplifting to catch a glimpse of so many different aspects of Northern Ireland culture in such a wide variety of unique venues and all for free. Another successful Culture Night – looking forward to next year already!