History of the Kilmuckridge Drama Festival

In 1958 the local Macra na Feirme branch was selected to host the County Macra na Feirme Drama Finals in the Kilmuckridge Memorial Hall.  The officers of the local branch at the time were the late P.J. O’Connor as Chairman, the late Johnny Murphy as Secretary and the late Johnny Kavanagh as Treasurer.  Such was the success of the competition that Kilmuckridge Macra continued to host the festival for the next eight years.  The Kilmuckridge Drama Festival has been a member of the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (ADCI) since 1960. After the 1966 Festival, the local branch of Macra decided that due to the high cost of hosting the Festival and pressure of time because of other commitments they could no longer continue to host it.  In 1967 some Kilmuckridge Macra members and some local parishioners formed an enthusiastic new committee, the Kilmuckridge Drama Festival Committee, to preside over the 1967 festival.  This committee was formed under the Chairmanship of the late P.J. O’Connor, with the late Myles O’Connor as Secretary and the late Michael Walsh as Treasurer.  Other members were Thomas Buttle, John Furlong, Pat Furlong, Hugh Harney, Josie O’Connor (now Josie Moran), Laurence O’Connor, Leo Prendergast and the late Sean Cashe, Tony Cleary, Jim Furlong, T.J. O’Loughlin, Michael Sinnott, Laurence Somers and Frank Whelan.  Since 1967 the Festival Committee has hosted a Full Length (Three Act) Drama Festival annually to the present day and a One Act Festival annually until 2006.

There has been a long tradition of drama in Kilmuckridge.  Some people fondly recollect plays in The Ford Cinema and in Kilmuckridge Memorial Hall.  The late Fr. Wheeler’s productions of “The Colleen Bawn” and “The Rose and the Shamrock” are often recalled.  Plays such as “Her Only Son” and “The Bishop’s Candlesticks” produced by the late Paddy Kinsella, teacher in Kilmuckridge Vocational School, are also fondly remembered.  The cast members of those days such as Betty Ryan (now Betty Young), the late Tom Bolger and the Bolger sisters, Jack Dempsey, John Downey, Jim (The Farmer) Murphy and Joe Sinnott, are an important part of our drama history.  Those productions created a love of drama in Kilmuckridge and surrounding areas.  With such foundations it comes as no surprise that a strong tradition of drama continues today in Kilmuckridge.

Following the “Stardust Disaster” in 1981 every Hall in the country was inspected and obliged to comply with up to date fire regulations.  This presented the Festival Committee with a dilemma.  They faced the decision to either close the Hall and abandon their Festival or take out a lease on the Hall, and refurbish it to comply with fire regulations.  They chose the latter.  The cost of refurbishment was paid for by running “Tops of The Parish” for a number of years.  The local groups played to packed houses and raised much needed funds along with unearthing many up and coming actors and actresses.

Kilmuckridge Drama Festival Committee has not only fostered a love of drama at local level, it is also actively involved in running of drama at national level.  In 1978 Fr. Laurence O’Connor was our first member to represent our Festival Committee at national level starting at Leinster Council Level.  He soon moved on to National Council Executive where he served a two year term as National Chairman.  Since then Kilmuckridge has been represented at Leinster and National Executive level by Pat Furlong, Billy McCreary, Anthony O’Connor and the late Jim Furlong and Marie Johnston.  Pat Furlong has also served a two year term as National Executive Chairman.  In 1988 Kilmuckridge had the great honour of hosting the All-Ireland One Act Drama Final.  There were twelve groups participating from all over the country and the plays were adjudicated by Biddy White-Lennon.  This record of service to drama speaks volumes for our committee.

Over the years the Festival has drawn Drama Groups from the four corners of Ireland along with local groups from Co. Wexford such as Ballycogley, Blackwater, Boolavogue, Bridge Drama, Bunclody-Kilmyshall, Enniscorthy, Ferns, Gorey, Kilrush, Monamolin, Wexford and of course our own local group, Kilmuckridge.  These groups of talented actors and producers have skilfully presented many memorable productions which have captivated audiences.  Numerous Drama Groups who have performed in Kilmuckridge Drama Festival went on to win All Ireland Finals.   

The Three Act Drama Festival takes place annually in Kilmuckridge for nine nights at the end of February.  In addition to the drama groups performances there have been other facets to Kilmuckridge Drama Festival including display of arts and crafts by local artists and art competitions and workshops for the pupils of Kilmuckridge and Monamolin National Schools.
 
Down through the years numerous committee members have come and gone each making a valuable contribution.  Thomas Buttle, John Furlong, Pat Furlong, Josie Moran and Leo Prendergast are five members of the original committee still serving today.  Since 1967 the position of Chairperson has been held by Liam Buttle, Richard Devereux, Pat Furlong, Anthony O’Connor, Fr. Laurence O’Connor, the late Jim Furlong, Marie Johnston, P.J. O’Connor and the current Chairperson Michael Murphy.
The Secretaries have included Fr. Jim Butler, Ann Furlong, Josie Moran, Kevin Moran, Leo Prendergast, Bernie Sheridan, the late Marie Johnston, Myles O’Connor, Dermot O’Hanlon and the current Secretary Una Prendergast.
The Treasurers have included John Furlong, Peter Prendergast, the late Sean Cashe, Ted O’Loughlin, Michael Walsh and the current Treasurer Billy McCreary.

Kilmuckridge Drama Festival has been a long-standing platform for the arts and has worked with great commitment to encourage local participation and to nurture the enthusiasm for drama that is an important part of our community.  With a rich history of drama in our locality and by continuing to foster an appreciation and love for drama, the tradition of our festival will flourish.