Offaly Traveller Pride Week 2018
Following on from the success of last year, Offaly Traveller Movement (OTM) hosted a fun festival for all the family at Charleville Castle, Tullamore, to mark National Traveller Pride week 2018. Staff and volunteers of OTM pulled out all the stops and put on three hours of entertainment with a distinct festival vibe for all to enjoy.
The organisation hosts a Traveller Pride event annually and last year saw the birth of this Traveller Pride Festival, initiated by the granting of state recognition of the ethnic status of Travellers in March 2017. This additional dynamic of celebration aimed to showcase the vast array of positive aspects of Traveller culture and celebrate bonds among both the settled and Traveller community. Given the successful nature of last year’s festival, the need to maintain and develop this celebration annually was evident.
The family fun festival attracted a melting pot of approximately 300 people, attracting young, old, Traveller and settled. There was a great emphasis on kid’s entertainment with a mobile farm, face painting, balloon sculpting, and fete games such as ring throwing, bowling, piñata and tug of war. The mobile farm brought friendly farm animals to meet and greet, teaching children all about the animals and their care, letting them groom and feed them, in a fun and interactive way. The tug of war was also well received with junior and senior groups and 25 young people were awarded with medals on the day. OTM’S Youth work team-leader Saranne Lovett stated that “It was fantastic to see so many children, both Traveller and settled, engage in games and teambuilding. The youth tug of war proved immensely popular and with all the kids eagerly striving to win a medal for their efforts”.
The older generation of Traveller men played traditional games and a quoits tournament was held on the day. The winners of this were John Ward and Calum Ward who were presented with a winners shield on stage. The shield will be passed on to next years and subsequent winners in future years of the festival. There was a traditional camp site scene set up and visitors could hear stories of days gone by, waiting for the kettle to boil on the open fire! A hand-crafted mini wagon, sulky and pony, and other traditional exhibits of culture were on display. Charleville Castle hosted two ghost tours and there was a BBQ and music for all to enjoy. At 5pm a concert took place showcasing song and dance from some highly talented local Travellers. Highlights included renowned singer Selina O Leary and her niece, who have developed a significant fan base around the country. Young Annalisa Wards melodic ballads were a real treat, and dancers included sisters Lauren and Amy Kavanagh. OTM’s Managing Director Emma Gilchreest said that, “The event was a great success overall, as expected, and we will continue to honour Traveller Pride in celebration on an annual basis. A big thank you to all that made this event possible and successful”
The festival was one of many Traveller Pride events held throughout the country on National Traveller Pride week. This Offaly Traveller Pride week event was funded by the Department of Justice & Equality and the project coordinated by OTM. Traveller Pride events primarily aim to break down barriers and foster partnership among Traveller and settled communities, and promote cultural awareness and acceptance of Travellers in Irish society.