Opening night of 43rd Mid-Ulster Drama Festival

The 43rd Mid-Ulster Film Festival got underway in typical fashion last night in the festival’s traditional home, ‘The Patrician’, Carrickmore.

Opening night always has the same buzz around it, good crowd, people swamping reception after their tickets and general great atmosphere in the air. The festival got the major boost a few years back in the form of a refurbished Patrician Hall in Carrickmore. While it may struggle to rival some of the features of other new auditoriums around Tyrone, namely Omagh’s Strule Arts Centre, Strabane’s Alley Arts Theatre and Cookstown’s Burnavon, the re-branded ‘Patrician’ offers a substantial improvement for the loyal festival going audience.

Neither can the new theatres rival the heritage of Carrickmore’s annual festival.

The usual faces that attend every year were present last night as the drink and conversation flowed. The committee member’s tradition of donning the tux always adds a bit of prestige to the annual occasion, not that Carrickmore is a place for airs and graces.

Glancing around the hall lobby,  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than a few in attendance who have been coming to the festival since it started in 1964. That core loyal following the festival is at once its greatest strength and greatest potential weakness. With no real authority other than a rough head count, the average audience age has to be in excess of 60 years.

My fear for the future of the festival would be the average age of the audience is increasing every year, with not enough energy on attracting  younger people. Perhaps this is something for the committee to look at in terms of promotion. You couldn’t really point to the plays on offer either as a source of discontent, with an excellent selection this year including Conor McPherson, Arthur Miller and three of Brian Friel’s best.

I’ll be attempting some sort of feedback on each night, and perhaps some reflections on Michael Twomey’s assessments as this year’s adjusicator.

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About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

One Response to Opening night of 43rd Mid-Ulster Drama Festival

  1. I was interested in what you said about the age of the audience increasing and concerns about lack of young people coming on board.

    I went to a conference where Fergus Linehan, former director of the Sydney Arts Festival and Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, was speaking and he said we should not worry about the younger age bracket so much, that involvment in the arts is something you meet at certain stages at your life and that we should embrace an older audience and not waste marketing spend on attracting the younger age bracket.

    He stated the 18-35 year olds are merely flirting with the arts, whilst carrying on a very hectic social and young family life, where bother chasing them at that life stage. Older audiences seem to be more embracing of new art forms, prepare to try new things and have plenty of spending power at the box office. It goes against everything I know about arts marketing, however I thought it was a refreshing idea….

    Nathan Flatman
    Marketing Officer, Alley Theatre, Strabane.

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