No bonfire this year but beacon possible in future .

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

WHILE there will be no 11th night bonfire in Rathfriland this year, plans are already being made for the possibility of a beacon in the town next year.

Rathfriland Bonfire Committee says its members want to hold an event that celebrates their "culture and tradition for many years to come".

The annual bonfire was at the bottom of John Street for many years after moving from a site on the Banbridge Road.

However, this site is no longer suitable due to new houses within The Slopes built just metres away.

As a result, the committee says it has been working hard to find an alternative night of celebration.

An event has been planned for the Square from 5.30pm to 8pm (approximately) on Tuesday, 11 July with proposed activities including a DJ, music, a variety of street entertainers and bouncy castles, all aimed at creating a "family-friendly event".

In a statement, the committee said: "In recent years Rathfriland Bonfire Committee has been exploring the options regarding the annual bonfire in Rathfriland.

"These discussions have been in conjunction with local elected councillors (Councillor Glenn Barr in particular) and also local agencies.

"This engagement has led to the planned celebration of culture to be held this 11th night in Rathfriland.

The local council, along with ourselves, have organised a truly family fun evening. While no fire will be held this year we are hoping to engage with other local organisations in advance of next year in the view of possibly having a large fire beacon to make it a celebration of culture and tradition in the years ahead." Replacing bonfires with beacons has happened in some other towns in Northern Ireland including in Dromore.

The reusable, two-part steel bonfire beacons are up to five metres high and are packed with carbon neutral wood shavings from willow trees. The structure is placed on a bed of sand, protecting surfaces from heat and scorch damage.

Meanwhile, the local organisers would invite all to come out to support the 11th night festival.

"We hope the local community would support our efforts and come to support and enjoy the evening of fun in celebration of the Glorious Revolution.

We wish everyone an enjoyable 12th holidays," the committee wrote in the statement.

Meanwhile, Councillor Barr who was involved in the discussions described it as "very good news" for Rathfriland.

"It has been a long process with the local groups who have been working hard to try and bring about something to celebrate the 11th night. Now that the housing has been built it is not viable to hold a bonfire at the previous site any longer.

"I commend all the local people who have been involved in this - they have shown true civic leadership.

"Hopefully it will be a good night and I would encourage everyone to attend," said the UUP councillor, who added that they are hoping to get flagship status for the 11th night celebrations in Rathfriland.

"There are already plans afoot to start planning for next year's, we are hoping to make it bigger and better as the years go on." Now that the event will be held in the Square, Councillor Barr hopes local businesses will feel the benefits from this event and the hundreds of locals expected to attend.

"I would encourage all the cafes, bars and restaurants to stay open, we want our town businesses to benefit from this as well." In recent years, the Schomberg Society in Kilkeel has organised a family festival called an 11th night pageant to great success.

SDLP Councillor for the area, Seamus Doyle thinks a festival in Rathfriland is a better idea.

"I think the festival idea will engage with everyone.

"A lot of people did not like the bonfire.

I think this event which will start at 5pm and finish around 8pm and will be marshalled by the council is a better idea. I just hope no-one abuses it.

"Residents will be sent information about the event after it comes to the full council meeting at the end of the month but if they have any problems or queries, they can contact the council," said Councillor Doyle.


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