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House of fun opens gates

Westport House opens gates
After a 60-year gap, an historic town-centre entrance, at Church Lane, to Westport House was re-opened last weekend ahead of this weekend’s music festival, from left: Michael Ryder, Church Street resident; Simon Wall, Architect, Westport Town Council; Ken Armstrong, Armstrong/Reape Architects; Sheelyn Browne, Westport House, Ger Hastings, Gerrard Hastings Construction and Joe Navin, Westport House Operations Manager, opening the new gate.?Pic: Paul Mealey

Historic house opens for festival fun and rousing riffs

Áine Ryan

WHETHER pirate queen, Granuaile, a former resident of Westport House would approve, is a fishy question. But, by all accounts, septuagenarian, Seasick Steve is going to cause some serious waves at the inaugural Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts next weekend.
With gates opening on Saturday at noon –  that includes the re-opened gate at Church Lane, right in the town centre –  the first act, Russian Delinquents, the winners of a battle of the bands, will ensure a local stamp is put on the inaugural festival.
Then, it is across the lawns for some acoustic sounds with the folksiness of the Lost Brothers while Galway’s Kanyu Tree rock on Stage Two. Another must-see is The Riptide Movement who are inclined to ‘Keep on Keeping On’.
A distinctive feature of this family-friendly festival ‘for grown-ups’ is the high percentage of good Irish acts. They include David Kitt, Rainy Boy Sleep, Hothouse Flowers, Jerry Fish, Damian Dempsey, the Plea and Duke Special. Add to the extravaganza such veterans as The Chieftains, Horslips and The Dubliners, along with The Waterboys, and landlubber rockers will feel like An Dearg Doom with perhaps a scintilla of Fisherman’s Blues.
While Rockabilly Rebel Imelda May will, no doubt, seduce many fans, word is that she will team up with Jools Holland and his orchestra.

Ticket sales

AS the countdown begins, organisers confirmed to The Mayo News that ‘ticket sales are very healthy’ and because of the centrality of  access in the town, they ‘expect great walk up on the day’.    
“Camping sold out when initially put on sale and then a second wave of camping was added. This is now also completely sold out and the festival have just been given permission to open a pop up campsite within the grounds to cope with demand,” a spokeswoman for the festival organisers said. 
She also said  car parking has been secured on the outskirts of Westport and there will be a park-and- ride facility in place in Castlebar. When questioned about the weather forecast, the organisers were optimistic.
“The long range weather forecast is pretty good. Sunshine with some showers. All festivals worry about the impact of weather but Irish festival goers are well used to diverse weather – one minute you’re under an umbrella and the next you’re pouring on the sunscreen. The music, the food, the vibe, that’s what makes a great festival – the weather is the cream on top,” she said.
The organisers warned that no alcohol, glass, cans or picnics would be permitted on site. They said that umbrellas and small garden furniture, such as deckchairs, would be allowed.

New entrance
AFTER a 60-year gap, an historic town-centre entrance, at Church Lane, to Westport House was reopened at the weekend. Originally, the gates provided access to the Church of Ireland built in 1797 on the front lawn of Westport House.  The current church, Holy Trinity, was built by the Browne Family and opened in 1868 when the congregation outgrew the original church.
The original  main entrance to Westport House from the town was located at the Mall Gate lodge, beside the public library. These gates were removed as part a compulsory purchase order by Westport Town Council in the early 1950s and were re-located to where they are today, adjacent to Hotel Westport.
Ms Sheelyn Browne, the Managing Director of Westport House, told The Mayo News:  “We are delighted to re-instate the direct link from the town to the estate as it was originally and historically intended. Visitors, and even some locals, aren’t aware of just how integrated the town and estate truly are.”
She also praised the town’s great community spirit, particularly the residents of Church Lane, Westport Town Council, as well as their own team, Armstrong Reape Architects and Gerry Hastings Construction.
“We are really looking forward to welcoming folks through the Church Lane gate on Saturday,” Ms Browne added.
She reminded prospective festival-goers that those with  annual membership of Westport House get 15 per cent off the festival ticket prices. These discounted tickets can be bought through www.westporthouse.ie. Other tickets can be bought at www.ticketgroup.ie or at Xtravision. 

MORE www.westportfestival.com

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