The seaside town of Bangor will be opening its doors on Monday for the month-long 2016 Open House Festival.
The annual Bangor festival is now in its fourth year, and with more than 120 events taking place in 40 venues and locations across the town, it has become something of an institution.
“The Festival attracts more and more visitors with each passing year,” says Open House Director, Kieran Gilmore. “Last year we welcomed over 20,000 people to the town, nearly 40% of whom were from outside of Bangor, and 3% from outside of Northern Ireland. We’re confident the numbers attending this year will be even higher, especially as the programme is more varied and diverse than ever.”
Highlights include appearances by an eclectic range of literary, comedy and musical icons such as Alexi Sayle, Tom Robinson, Suggs, The Damned and Ian Rankin. There’s home-grown talent in the form of West End star, Niamh Perry, mentalist, David Meade, and Derry based indie band, Ports. Acts from across the pond include US singer-songwriters Sam Beam of Iron and Wine with Jesca Hoop, collectively known as Iron and Wine, the popular six-piece American roots band, Spirit Family Reunion, and redneck folk group, Foghorn Stringband. There will be Shakespeare in a garden, theatre in an auction room, outdoor cinema, magic acts, literary events, music on boats, in parks, on an island and in plenty of pubs.
In the Tourism NI Year of Food and Drink, wining and dining will play a huge part throughout the month, with a total of 26 food and drink events, including the Sundown Market on Friday 19th August. “This will be one of the biggest and best celebrations of local artisan produce that Northern Ireland has ever seen,” says Kieran. “There’ll be over 50 producers visiting Bangor that night, with a selection of street-food stalls, a pop up craft beer bar, and some great live music.”
Aine Kearney, Director of Business Support and Events Tourism Northern Ireland commented: “To coincide with the Year of Food and Drink 2016, the Open House Festival has an impressive program filled with 26 food events, 23 of which have already sold out. From pop up restaurants to the biggest artisan market in Northern Ireland, the Sundown market, Open House Bangor’s food events offer tourists from at home and abroad the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the best of local produce.”
Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Deborah Girvan said: “Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to be supporting the festival for the fourth year running. As the festival grows it continues to bring an exciting mix of both local and international artists to the area. I wish the festival every success for the month ahead and I am thoroughly looking forward to experiencing all that this years’ programme has to offer.”
Many events have already sold out, but there is still plenty of availability, and as over half of the events are free, there’s plenty of opportunity to grab a slice of the festival atmosphere.
The growing sense of excitement throughout the town is palpable. “This festival has made the people of Bangor proud of their town again,” says Kieran. “They want to be a part of it; they’re proud to say ‘look what we have here, look where we live – isn’t it great!’ The sense of ownership the festival brings is very real, and extremely contagious. We can’t wait!”
Open House Festival Bangor 2016 is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Tourism NI and NI Year of Food and Drink.
For more information and tickets, go to www.openhousefestival.com