CHRISTMAS has been gently nudging into Newcastle West over the past week or more but this Friday, all restraint will be thrown off and the Christmas spirit will come into full seasonal sparkle with the launch of Winterfest. “The idea behind Winterfest is to create a festive atmosphere around the town and to encourage people to take their entertainment and to do their shopping around the town rather than going elsewhere,” said Vicki Nash, the chairperson of Newcastle West Arts Committee which is spearheading and co-ordinating the event.
Keen to bring light and sparkle into the dark days of Winter, Winterfest will kick off with the lighting up ceremony at 5.30pm this Friday when the lights and tree, sponsored by the town’s Business Association, will be turned on.
But the Square will also resonate to the sound of Fuinneamh Bounce’s 14-foot giant drum, with an open invitation to people to take their turn along with up to 20 others.
Friday also sees the opening of Encounters, an exhibiton of paintings and sculpture which crosses the border, featuring the work of artists from North and South. The works are drawn from collections owned by the Irish Government and by Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and are lent out annually to just four venues, two in the North and two in the South. “We are honoured to be getting this exhibition,” Ms Nash said. “It is a fantastic endorsement for the town.” The exhibition will hang in the Red Door Gallery in the town square.
This Saturday will also see a Christmas Market taking place in the Square, a falconry display in the Desmond Castle grounds and Santa in his Grotto. And between 2pm and 4pm, there will be a living crib, organised by the parish council, and carol singing.
One of the major highlights of Winterfest will be the Lions Club recital in the parish church on Thursday, December 12 featuring tenor Brian Hartnett and violinist Ann Phelan with Jean O’Brien. The recital will begin at 8pm and there will be a retiring collection rather than an admission price.
Saturday, December 14 will see the arrival of the Belfast Chime and Handbell Choir who will perform in the Desmond Banqueting Hall and in St Catherine’s Nursing Home. They will also feature at the 12.30 Mass on Sunday, December 15, followed by the Living Crib.
Other events include music nights and a family Sunday at the Shamrock, free puppet shows and a range of market stalls selling food, gifts and crafts.