International Clown Festival In Downpatrick Was A Resounding Success
The first Clowns International Festival ever held in Ireland – North or South – was held in Downpatrick recently and was a resounding success.
Crowds came out to enjoy these brilliantly funny characters in all shapes and guises. The main activity was in the Downpatrick town centre in the St Patrick’s Square which was buzzing to the sound of laughter and oohs and aahs!
Clowns came to their international annual event from all over the world – from Canada and the United States, India, and from across countries in Europe and even from the Azores!
Noleen Breen, a home grown clown from Strangford who works full-time at her art, said: “I’ve been quite involved in developing the Clown Internationale for a number of years and each year we hold our annual AGM and festival in a different country. This year we were very lucky to have the support of Newry Mourne and Down District Council to bring the inaugural event to the district. It has been amazingly successful with a terrific response from the public.
“Generally we tend to pick seaside town where there is a footfall of tourists. This year we broke new ground and came to Downpatrick and were very well received. We were amazed that all the food premises in Downpatrick were very supportive and laid on copious amounts of free food for all the 30+ clowns. The clowns were really appreciative of this and on their behalf I’d like to thank all those food premises who were so generous.
“The clowns are all very skilled, dedicated and professional entertainers in their own countries. They held workshops and enjoyed a fabulous exchange of ideas which helps keep us all going for another year. It can be a bit difficult ploughing a lonely furrow just like any other small business person, so this event is always very much looked forward too.”
Noeleen explained that the Clown Festival took a lot of organising and said that even getting visas for clowns from India was very difficult but the diverse mix of talent helped create a very exciting and entertaining event for the local people in Downpatrick.
“When we all break up and get ready to go on our own paths home across the world, it is a very emotional occasion as we are all just like one big happy family. There are plenty of tears, and a number of our clowns are people themselves who have come through difficult times but battle on knowing the power of laugher and a smile on a child’s or parents face.
“It really is a great melting pot of ideas. I’ve partnered up at a number of events with the Great Njetski who comes from Denmark and we have great fun. During our performances in St Patrick’s Square I noticed that there were excellent crowds building up and the audiences were different for many shows suggesting a high level of footfall which was very encouraging.
“I’ve been elected chair for this year and I’m again looking forward to bringing this event back to our Council area and Downpatrick if possible. We put on two indoor shows in the Down Arts Centre which were well supported and also had the use of the St Patrick Centre. We made a number of visits to the local primary schools and the children and the staff loved it and want us back.
“But we are in a bit of a dilemma as we need to find funding for the return event next year. If we can’t achieve this in the timescale we may have to move to a different venue. It will be a very difficult decision to have to make.
“The event this year was a trial event for Downpatrick and was successful and we all agreed that the next one would be bigger and better, but we have to secure funding for this. We’d like to roll it out across more of the South Down area next time.
Looking back, Noleen said she and her troup of merry clowns were delighted with the inaugural Clown International Festival taking place in Downpatrick and added that the open air picnic beside the St Patrick Centre in the sunshine was a great event.
“We even had the sun coming out to order and this added no doubt to the merriment on the day.”