Festival 'Plugs In To People Power'

Hundreds of local people are preparing to help deliver or participate in this year's Open House Festival Bangor, which gets underway on Tuesday 01 August.

The town will host 141 events in 42 venues over the 31 days of August, with around 400 local musicians, actors, authors, chefs and artists, 120 local businesses and almost 100 volunteers contributing to this year's festival.

As well as local acts, this year's programme includes a diverse line-up of national and international artists, such as up-and-coming singer-songwriter, Nadia Reid from New Zealand, and Portishead's Andy Smith.

In the first week, two Irish literary heavyweights, John Boyne and Bernard MacLaverty, will be visiting Bangor – John to chat to the BBC's Marie-Louise Muir about his latest stunning book, The Heart's Invisible Furies; and Bernard to launch his first novel in 16 years, Midwinter Break, already tipped to be the masterpiece of his career.

The first of 50 music events in the programme takes place on Friday 04 August when Blunt Fringe perform their musical revue, Me & Kate Bush, at the Marine Court Hotel.

Now in its fifth year, the Bangor festival kicks off with a special public event: Creating a Creative Town. Panellists include local entrepreneur and founder of Copeland Gin, Gareth Irvine; author, columnist and broadcaster, Ian Sansom; Bangor resident and CEO of Museums NI, Kathryn Thomson; and designer and social design guru, Wayne Hemingway MBE.

"We've been committed to the concept of creating a creative town – essentially regenerating Bangor through arts and culture – for quite some time now," Festival director, Kieran Gilmore, said. "It's becoming clear to us that many other people who live and work in Bangor have the same objective. But creativity isn't exclusive to the arts – it extends to so many other businesses and industries, from food and drink to ICT and retail to housing. This public meeting is for everyone connected to Bangor who is a creative thinker, regardless of their occupation, and wants to contribute to the creative regeneration of the town."

As an extension of the Creating a Creative Town idea, 120 local businesses, from pubs to printers, and butchers to boutiques, have signed up to be a Festival Friend, offering a range of deals and discounts to ticket holders throughout August.

"All of our festival friend venues are getting a complimentary pack that includes hand-made bunting, window stickers, posters, and post cards," Kieran added, "so the town will look vibrant and colourful, reflecting the festival spirit."

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Almost a third of this year's events are free, from the popular Sundown Market and Bluegrass Picnic, to the Sunday afternoon sessions in the Rabbit Rooms, to a lunchtime lecture in Ward Park on the life of NI suffragette, Winnie Carney.

Kieran continued: "The Festival attracts more and more visitors with each passing year. Last year we welcomed over 30,000 people to the town, 46% of whom were from outside of Bangor, and 4% from outside of Northern Ireland - and the estimated economic impact was £1.1m We're confident the numbers attending this year will be even higher, and the impact on the local economy even greater."

Many events have already sold out, but there is still plenty of availability and lots of opportunity to grab a slice of the festival atmosphere.

"This festival has made the people of Bangor proud of their town again," Kieran added. "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!"

Terence Brannigan, Tourism NI Chairman, commented: "Tourism NI is a proud sponsor of Open House Festival. This unique, home grown festival will bring Bangor to life this August with visitors entertained by a programme packed with unique, engaging, quality events. Events such as the Open House Festival are firmly established within our tourism fabric, adding value to the positive perceptions and profile of our destination, and have been recognised as having an important role in contributing to the economy. As we anticipate the fantastic festival ahead of us, I wish organisers, sponsors and attendees the very best for what I am sure will be another."

Maria McAlister, Traditional Arts Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: "With its eclectic range of music, visual arts, literature and family events, Open House Festival has firmly established itself as an annual summer highlight. The Arts Council is delighted to support this terrific festival which demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities together as well as being a tool for economic regeneration."

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Robert Adair, said: "Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to be supporting the festival for the fifth year running. As the festival grows it continues to bring an eclectic mix of both local and international artists to the area. I wish the festival every success in the season ahead; I am thoroughly looking forward to experiencing all that this years' programme has to offer."

Open House Festival Bangor 2017 is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Tourism NI. For more information and tickets, go to openhousebangor.com

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