by Danielle Corrigan

Soldiers quietly walk together with heads held high, while a firm grip is placed on a riffle. Their uniforms scream, ready to fight for independence, as the crowd look on. The old army car follows them while they walk. Where was I to see this – at the Heritage Festival Ballymahon, Co. Longford.

The festival featured a wide variety of events which included a re-enactment of 1916 Irish soldiers, while the library offered a look back with images and a magazine printed the day after the executions – certainly something which drove the history fanatics nuts. The festival sought to bring people a glimpse of the past; It certainly succeeded.

Walking through the various stalls you couldn’t help but feel catapulted back in time. Music filled the town, while the scent of cakes and fruity drinks drew you in. The old farm barn held most of the market stalls where there was a lot of interesting people and things to see, some of which included: Ogham writing carved into bronze plates, plaques, and jewellery, which was hard to step away from and not spend every penny I had!

Even the local shops got into the spirit with a window display competition. The aim? Have your window show the town’s past in the best way. Some took to putting up old newspapers; one pharmacy window displayed the first aerial photo of the town.

But, some of the best parts of the festival for me was the opportunity to see some of the best talent Ballymahon and Longford has to offer. The busking competition offered the chance to see a variety of acts from all ages and backgrounds. Before that, the live stage also allowed two great acts to perform. A triad band with a modern twist, Caillte, took to the stage and drove the crowd mad. Although they were quite young, they looked and acted like they owned the stage, and believe me, it showed in their performance. Be sure to check them out online, believe me they are worth it.

The busking competition was a great way to end the festival. It felt like a walk down a city street hearing all the buskers show off their skill and talent. The younger buskers were impressive, showing their talent while competing to win. Considering it was a heritage festival, a lot of ceili bands and singers lined the streets to entertain and get themselves known. Some who were on stage graced the streets with more performances throughout the remainder of the day. Suede Shoes, a new acoustic duo from Ballymahon town, were catching most of the attention from onlookers – another group which stood out from the crowd. The event really encouraged younger people to take part in music and performance, which was a main aim, showcasing local talent, just waiting to emerge. Together with many others, I was left speechless watching young groups preform like seasoned professionals.