Clon strikes up the band as hundreds of musicians head to town

Visitor accommodation is at a premium as a West Cork town gears up for the arrival of some 1,500 musicians and hundreds more friends, guests and fans of the popular South of Ireland Band Championships.

A loud and very colourful weekend is promised as Clonakilty’s Old-Time Fair also takes place this coming weekend.

A record number of bands, at 33, including the Tacoma Concert Band from Washington State, feature in the 39th Championships which run in the community hall and the local Gaelscoil, with rehearsals in the Clonakilty Community College.

Travelling to Ireland to assess the standard of band musicians from as young as 10 or 11 years old to people in their 80s are eminent UK-based adjudicators, Steve Sykes and Glyn Williams.

They will be judging bands from all over the country with musicians travelling to the south-west from Dungannon in Co Tyrone, Drogheda, Mullingar and Dublin, while a significant number of bands are also coming from Cork, Limerick and Tipperary.

Ireland’s oldest group, St James’ Band from Dublin, will perform at 11.30am Sunday Mass in the town.

“In all, we expect to have about 1,500 musicians, many of whom will bring along family members and friends,” said Eileen Kingston of the organising committee.

She said hotels and other accommodation in the town have experienced a major surge in bookings.

“Many of these people have turned the band championships in Clonakilty into their annual band day out, and some make a whole weekend of it,” she said.

We have a number of bands who are staying from Friday to Monday, and beds are at a premium in Clonakilty next weekend because of the event.

The championships’ emphasis on Own Choice Repertoires makes for a very enjoyable musical weekend, Ms Kingston said, adding there are free performances daily on the streets and at various venues, while the competitions are also free to enjoy.

It’s a great day. The town is full of music and fun, and, because the championships run in conjunction with the Old Time Fair, there are a great number of activities and entertainments for both visiting band members and the general public.

“Not alone is it a wonderful cultural day for the town, it also brings a significant boost for the local economy.”

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