‘Singing the Glens’ is the title of the opening event at this year’s Big Arts Weekend in Cushendun and that is what this small but beautiful festival is all about: celebrating the heritage, landscape and talent that make Cushendun village and the Glens of Antrim unique.
Back for a sixth year, the Big Arts Weekend - run by Cushendun Building Preservation Trust - is a magical mix of music, art, poetry, drama and history, as well as family fun and first-class cake, all in some highly characterful venues.
Elegant 1920s Glenmona House - the hub of activity throughout the weekend - will host Singing the Glens as musicians and neighbours Glenn Simpson and Sean Quinn launch the festival by inviting us to rediscover the songs of Brian Connors. The following day Glenmona will be the venue for another headline event: a painting master class with leading Irish artist Hector McDonnell. Also at Glenmona, you can feast your eyes all weekend on an exhibition by the Glens of Antrim Painting for Pleasure Group - and then enjoy the Arts Weekend’s fabulous pop-up tea shop.
A quite different venue is Mary McBride’s, Cushendun’s small and cosy pub, where broadcaster Maurice Leydon will give a ‘singing lecture’ about the linen industry. There also will be contemporary music at Mary’s on two nights over the Arts Weekend. A grand-scale event, by comparison, will be Music for a May Evening, when the glorious voices of Cavehill Community Choir fill St Patrick’s Church.
Other new events this year include a singing workshop, an introduction to willow weaving, a talk on Glenswomen in the Irish Revival and an ‘in conversation’ evening with playwrights Martin Lynch and Marie Jones.
All the Big Arts Weekend favourites are back too: the award-winning Lurig Drama Group, this year reading work about women in power and politics; the popular Share-a-Poem at Randal’s (the most characterful venue of all!); storytelling; two guided walks; the Sand Sculpture Competition; and Play-in-a-Day, where young performers put together a show from scratch. Sunday will be Family Fun Day in Glenmona’s leafy grounds, and Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market will pitch up there on Bank Holiday Monday.
You can see the full programme, buy tickets and register for free events at www.cushendunbpt.org. A pop-up ticket office will also be open in Glenmona House on Saturday April 28, 10am-1pm.