IN DREAMS BEGIN RESPONSIBILITY
The drama tradition in Glenamaddy dates back at least to the turn of the last century. The late Bishop Fergus, recalling his life and time in Glenamaddy, mentioned a play in the Town Hall during the troubles (War of Independence). Quite a few of the townlands had their own groups. For example the first Ballyhard Dramatic Society came into prominence around 1933 under P.M.Garvey. Ardeevin & Ballinastack were also rich in Drama with many dedicated players. One of the many accommodating facets of the town hall was in the refuge it provided for all the visiting "fit-up" companies like the D'Alton Players, The Bohemian Players and the Carrickfords to name but a few.
The advent of the E.S.B changed the face of local play productions with a new emphasis on lights and lighting, sets and settings. Fr Jarlath Canny brought the first box set to the town. In 1959 Fr. Dooley of Kilkerrin commissioned John.L.Garvey to light his production of All Soul's Night in the Town Hall. John.L later wrote that "while the lighting was somewhat restricted, the overall production was splendid". It was from this visit that we saw the desirability of building up the necessary stage and equipment that would enable us to invite in visiting groups and accommodate them. Thus the seeds were sown for the formation of the Theatre Festival.
The Theatre Festival was launched in 1960 with Athenry's Production of Sive by John.B.Keane in the Esker Hall with founder members listed as Fr.C.Scahill, Jack Fitzmaurice, Pierce O'Gara, Jim Keaveney, Paul Garvey, Joe O'Neill, Malachy Mooney & John.L.Garvey. Their remit was simple - to entertain and to promote a greater awareness of the Arts and Theatre. While enthusiasm certainly outweighed funds (the first switchboard was built in John.L's pub), such was the spirit of co-operation at the time that Jim Keaveney (proprietor of the Esker Hall) not only made the hall available but it was generously made available free of charge - a gesture which was duplicated in later years by Martin Connaughton in the Cinema and Joe O'Neill in the Sound of Music.
It was interesting to note that in the course of this research that I learned that the Drama Festival could have purchased the Cinema for £800 when cinema going declined, but the deal fell through because of shortage of funds.
The first adjudicators of the Glenamaddy Drama Festival were Traolach O'hAonghusa (1960), Anew McMasters (1961 - pictured here) and Barry Cassin (1962) - quite a coup for a small village in the West of Ireland. Shortly after its inception the Festival Club became synonymous with hospitality and conviviality due to, in no short measure the efforts of the Ladies Committee which included Mrs.P.Brady, Mrs.E.Burke, Mrs.P.Marren, Mrs M.Halloran, Misses J.F.Collins, M.O'Rourke, U.O'Dea and T.Mannion.
From the Mid 80's the festival was held in the local Community Centre, including the 1993 All-Ireland Confined Finals. In 1996 drama returned to the newly renovated and refurbished Town Hall. No longer derelict - quite the contrary - the new hall boasted state of the art facilities.
Again to quote the late John.L.Garvey;
"For almost a century the Town Hall has added status to our town and provided us with a vehicle to encourage locally a greater love and understanding of theatre and arts. Now restored to its former splendour, this culture bowl and architectural gem will hopefully continue to promote the aims and aspirations of the dedicated groups"
We, the present committee, still carry the dream of our forefathers and with it the responsibility of ensuring that each year's festival is better than the previous year.
Festival President (2010)
Pictured Back Row, L-R; Pierce O'Gara, Malachy Mooney, Jack Fitzmaurice, Paul Garvey.
Front Row, L-R; John. L. Garvey, Jim Keaveney, Joseph O'Neill.