Irish Country Lifestyle Festival


2004/2005 Awards

Musical melodrama and the Festival that's best of all

BY EMMA COWAN on the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards

Emma CowanWhat have operatic crooner, Peter Corry, the National Country Sports Fair at Moira and the Country Lifestyle Festival at Shane's Castle got to do with each other? Answer - the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards and a gala evening of entertainment that definitely hit the spot!

The great and the good of tourism and hospitality in Northern Ireland were out in their droves at the Tourism Awards ceremony and, as it happened, both the Country Lifestyle Festival and the National Country Sports Fair were nominated for a marketing award. Ever-confident, the experienced team behind the Shane's Castle Festival of the Titteringtons, the McClellands and Dickey, had two tables at the event. As for the National Country Sports Fair, Bill Beckett and company were noticeably absent.

Now, as someone who's moved from writing within the country sports press to writing in the Northern Ireland business and tourism press, I know for a fact that the identity of the winners was a closely guarded secret. No-one had advance knowledge. Nevertheless, confidence paid off, as the Country Lifestyle Festival, which the judges described as a superlative example of focused, knowledgeable and effective marketing, picked up the ultimate accolade for Marketing Excellence, clearly establishing this Festival as the best of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Didn't I say that the entertainment 'hit the spot'? Well, after a glorious half hour of singing from West End star performer, Peter Corry, we were told that his band would be displaying 'wicked humour' in its choice of music to herald each winner. The choice couldn't have been better for the battle for supremacy on the country sports event front. As Michael Dickey, Hon Chairman of the Country Lifestyle Festival mounted the stage to receive his award, the band most certainly hit the nail on the head with a rousing rendition of 'Anything you can do, I can do better'! Need I say more!

The NITB bmi Marketing Excellence Award was Sponsored by Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau):
Winner: Irish Country Lifestyle Festival, Antrim
Highly commended:
Fermanagh Tourist Information Centre, Enniskillen
National Country Sports Fair, Moira

group award

Countrysports Director: John Mc Clelland with the Trophy, Ally Mc Clelland (Medieval Director), Mike Dickey ( Hon. Chairman) and Paul Robinson (Sales and Marketing) with some of the Festival guests at the Gala Dinner.

Some Quotes On the Festival award:

Jim Wilson ( MLA South Antrim)
"For some time now Lough Neagh has been considered to be one of the most under-rated attractions of Northern Ireland and the efforts made by the organisers of the Irish Country Lifestyle Festival to put it firmly on thetourist map are to be applauded.

Anyone who attended the Festival last year will have already seen how innovative and skilful marketing can affect the success of a venture like this one, and whilst there is always an element of surprise when competing with the best in a shortlist for an NITB award, I think few would doubt that this one was well deserved.

There will be even more in store at the Festival this year and with this award safely tucked under their belt I have no doubt the organisers will be putting their best foot forward to produce an event that will showcase not only Lough Neagh and Antrim but the whole rural way of life."

Countryside Alliance Ireland were represented at the event by Board members Jim Wilson MLA and John Clarke. John Clarke said afterwards," Countryside Alliance Ireland would wish to warmly congratulate Michael, John, Albert and all the team on winning this prestigious award. We recognise the hard work and dedication put in by the team to make the Country Lifestyle Festival such a success and it is a delight to see this work rewarded. We wouldlike to wish the team every success in the future and we applaud them for all they are doing in the interest of Country Sports and the Country way of life not just with this Festival, but in many other ways".

Congratulating Festival organizers on their award John Drummond from main event sponsors Junction One said: "As Northern Ireland's first international outlet centre we are delighted to partner such a distinctive event so close to our shopping centre and this marketing award is certainly well deserved. The sponsorship is a significant boost to Junction One's profile and brings a new dynamic to tourism in the Antrim area."

The Mayor of Antrim, Councillor Bobby Loughran commented: " Antrim Borough Council is delighted that the Country Lifestyle Festival has won the NITB Tourism Award for Marketing Execellence. Major events such as this make a huge contribution to raising the profile of Antrim Borough as a premier tourist destination throughout the island of Ireland and also on the international stage. The Council is pleased to be able to support the 2005 Country Lifestyle Festival here again in Antrim in June - it promises to be even more spectacular than last year with the addition of a Lough Neagh Festival to the programme."

John Mc Clelland Director of Countrysports at the Festival said ; " We consider that this award clearly establishes our event as the top countrysports event in Northern Ireland. But of course whilst we consider we do have the widest range of activities to interest the most discerning of the hunting, shooting and fishing enthusiasts, our event is not just aimed at the traditional Game Fair attendance.

In addition to the traditional Game Fair attractions we have an extensive range of additional attractions including a huge medieval village with top performers from all over the UK ( full armour jousting; long bow archery, a team with muzzleloading cannon plus musicians, jugglers, medieval cookery etc); added to this is the Lough Neagh Festival with a spectacular simulated rescue, a regatta, the Lough Neagh Fine Food and Craft Festival; the Countrysports and Conservation Pavilion and the NI Angling Show; plus a children's learning and education area; an equestrian and carriage driving show and a huge tented village of trade stands."