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By Declan Tierney, Connacht Tribune

THE New Inn Mummers Festival which has fostered talent for mega shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance in the past – plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary in style when it takes place early next month.

The Festival will be held on Saturday, January 6, when groups from Galway, Offaly, Roscommon and Clare converge on the small East Galway village on an annual basis for the event which includes music, song, dance and storytelling.

It has become of the most popular places in Galway and will take place in the New Inn Leisure Centre – in times past, it was regularly held in the well-known hostelry Ward’s of Ballyfa.

When it was first held four decades ago, it was mainly to raise funds for local projects and appropriately the staging of the Mummers Festival certainly contributed to the centre in New Inn being provided – the centre also plays host to the general election count for the Galway East Constituency.

It is chiefly organised by former FG Senator Michael Mullins and Michael Finnerty from New Inn and attracts groups of performers from both Galway and neighbouring counties.

Festival Chairman Michael Mullins told The Connacht Tribune that plans were at an advanced stage for the hosting of the 40th annual Mummers Festival and the organisers were now inviting entries from groups from the region and beyond.

“It has been a wonderful success and we are proud to say that many of those who have performed over the years have gone on to greater things like being part of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.

“Every year we can see the talent improving and we are not surprised that a lot of participants have gone on to greater things.  The feedback that we get from the performance groups has been very encouraging,” Michael added.

The New Inn Mummers Festival is organised by the local community council.  As well as fostering and promoting Irish traditional culture, it is also raising funds for the running costs and improvements to the local centre.  In addition, part of the proceeds is donated to charity.

The festival will include junior and senior competitions and will be the subject of a radio documentary.  There will be cash prizes and perpetual trophies for winning groups, and individual prizes for singers, musicians, dancers and storytellers.

For the first ten years, the Mummers Festival was staged in the ballroom of Ward’s in Ballyfa before moving to the new leisure centre in the viallage in 1987.

The Festival has grown and developed over the years, and due to the quality of the performers, has become a significant event in the entertainment calendar.

The festival will commence on the Saturday evening at 7pm, with the junior groups, who will perform for 20 minutes, with a variety of music, song, dance and storytelling, followed by the senior groups who will compete for the Peter Donohue Perpetual Cup.  Peter Joe Donohue was one of the founder members of the Mummers Festival.

Entries for this year’s festival should be confirmed as soon as possible to Secretary Michael Finnerty, New inn, Ballinasloe at 087-3828281.