THERE’S still the sound of hammers and spades from the hill at the top of Dungannon town, but it’s soon to be the sound of music and the voices of thousands of visitors who will be enjoying access to the renamed heritage site ‘Hill of The O’Neill’ during the forthcoming Festive Hill Celebrations.
Between the 22nd and 30th of September 2012 the general public is to be afforded a preview of Hill of The O’Neill in advance of the official opening on 24th October 2012. During the Festive Hill Celebrations a large marquee will be located on the site of the former Territorial Army Camp that has been demolished as part of the re-landscaping of the hill. Up until 2003 and throughout the period of The Troubles, the hill had been used as a military base because of its strategic location at the centre of Northern Ireland and its birds eye view over seven counties.
Iain Frazer, CEO of Dungannon & South Tyrone Council who is overseeing the re-landscaping of the historic site and the restoration and extension of Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, is eagerly anticipating the official opening next month as well as the forthcoming Festive Hill Celebrations.
“The hill is almost ready to receive its first official visitors since re-landscaping work commenced. We had hoped we would be able to open the hill separately in advance of the official opening of Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, but the two locations are so intricately linked this is not going to be possible. Instead we will have restricted access to the hill for the general public during the Festive Hill celebrations with a walkway being created from the entrance to the hill at Castle Hill Street to the Marquee area. However on the 29th and 30th of September – during the Flavour of Tyrone Good Food Circle Food Fair – there will be more general access to the hill for family entertainment.
“The new gardens are obviously going to need time to grow and mature, but by the time the new Tourist season commences in Spring next year – the site will be in great shape for the thousands of visitors we are hoping to welcome over the coming years. This is an important site in the history of Ireland and Europe and the new centre and exhibition will help visitors understand more about the significance of the location. From here the famous O’Neill Dynasty ruled Ulster and most of Ireland for hundreds of years, and the hill became an important location in the Plantation of Ulster when James 1 granted Arthur Chichester the site in 1609’.
Festive Hill 22nd – 30th September 2012
The first planned events for the hill however take place during the ‘Festive Hill’ celebrations that commence this weekend and contain a diverse mix of events including music, fashion, and food as well as a championship kickboxing event and the ever popular Gannonball Run Soapbox Race. Most of the events will be located in the Marquee where there will also be a Festival bar during the evening events. The annual Mid Ulster Business Awards will also take place in the Marquee on Wednesday 26th September 2012. Ticketed events include two major music concerts. Nathan Carter, new ‘King of Country’ and the super talented twenty year old introducing a whole new generation to country music will be performing on Monday 24th September at 8pm (doors open at 7.30pm). The Celtic Tenors, Ireland’s best selling classical crossover trio, will be performing on Thursday 27th September at 7.30pm (doors open 7pm). The Celtic Tenors are to be supported by two local choirs, An Cór Gaelach and Dungannon Choral Society. Dungannon based soprano, Gemma Prince, who is currently singing with NI Opera, will also be performing and is joining the Tenors for one aria – the famous drinking song ‘Brindisi’ from Verdi’s opera La Traviata. To win a pair of free tickets for the Celtic Tenors Concert, go to www.facebook.com/DungannonArtsandVisitor and ‘like’ the photo of The Celtic Tenors before Monday 24th September 2012.
The championship kickboxing event takes place this Saturday, 22nd September – being billed not so much a ‘Flight of the Earls’ as a ‘Fight of the Earls’! The event has attracted some of the top kickboxers in the country with many championship title-holders taking part including Lynas Biebinski, ‘the big Lithuanian’ from the Moy. Tickets for this event are available at the door only which opens at 6.30pm. The first fight is scheduled for 7.30pm
On Tuesday 25th September at the Marquee former Miss Northern Ireland Joanne Salley will host a spectacular one-off fashion event. The show will preview this autumns’ latest styles from Dungannon’s extensive range of ladies fashion retailers. Ticket holders will be presented with a treat-filled goodie bag packed full of promotions, samples, and prizes.
One of the most eagerly awaited events however is a FREE two day food fair on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September - organised by the Flavour of Tyrone Good Food Circle. At the Marquee around 30 exhibitors will be laying out their wares and demonstrating what to do with some of County Tyrone’s best quality ingredients and produce.
Alongside free samplings there will be cookery demonstrations and a variety of food theatre events, with fun and entertainment for all the family on the hill. For those visiting the Food Fair on the Saturday – there’s a chance to make a day of it by staying on for one of Ireland’s largest and most colourful soapbox races – The Gannonball Run (6.30pm Saturday 29th September). Sponsored this year by Hagan’s Bar, the town centre course makes the most of Dungannon’s hilly streets with lots of new obstacles and challenges to make the course even more exciting. The atmospheric street entertainment with clowns and face painting continues into the evening.
Mayor Councillor Phelim Gildernew is keen for everyone to join in the festivities – especially those who maybe have not visited Dungannon for a very long time – or ever!
“Dungannon is a town in transition – despite the difficult economic times – it continues to grow and expand and the optimism and energy of its people, including a new and growing migrant population is creating a unique new heritage in the heartland of Ulster.
“A recent survey of UK growth between 1988 and 2012 showed that Dungannon was the top place to do business – not just in the North of Ireland, but also in the whole of the UK. With a new heritage site and visitor attraction of national and international significance opening at the centre of our town, and with a new public realm scheme commencing later this year that will see new roads, pathways, lighting and street furniture – we mean business! A big warm welcome awaits our visitors at ‘the top of the hill’ in Dungannon this coming weekend.
To download the full Festive Hill programme visit www.dungannon.info, which will be, updated over the coming weeks and months as different aspects of the new arts and heritage facility become operational. Hill of The O’Neill and the adjoining Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre officially open on 24th October 2012.
There is a special Festive Hill Ticket Office at 15 Scotch Street, Dungannon, open daily Monday to Saturday 2pm – 5pm and staffed by volunteers from the Dungannon Enterprise Centre. Other local Ticket outlets are Gene Stuart Records, Irish Street, Dungannon, Dungannon Leisure Centre, Circular Road, Dungannon and Killymaddy Tourist Information Centre. Tickets can also be purchased at the door, but as tickets are selling fast audiences are advised to book early to avoid disappointment. Call 028 8776 7259 for further information.