Boat to the Banjo Festival 2012 -A Great Success

Read full report HERE ……………….See Photos in Gallery.

Offaly Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) were delighted with the large number
of boats and over a hundred crew members from all over the country that joined in the inaugural
Boat to the Banjo festival which was organised to coincide with the Johnny Keenan Banjo
Interest from locals and visitors to Tullamore was great, with many commenting on how much
they enjoyed the colourful spectacle of small and large cruisers along with the heritage barges
which are moved around the system by the Heritage Boat Association as they took relaxing
walks along the Canal over the weeks’ festivities.
The boats also took part in the world record attempt on Saturday for the greatest number of
Banjo players playing while afloat. This was organised by the Ballycommon Canal Renewal
Group with Offaly IWAI in associated with the Festival Committee. The event saw a large
number of spectators visiting the Grand Canal Harbour Area to enjoy the music extravaganza,
34 Banjo players young and old from all counties around Ireland, England and the United States
joined local players in creating the record.
The challenge put out by the MC for a musician to pen a tune for next years record attempt
called Tullamore Grand Canal Harbour World Record was accepted by one of the players and
the organisers look forward to having this new tune added to the play list for next year.
Individual performances included banjo players from Milwaukee and Kerry. The Sound system
for the event was sponsored by Tullamore Sound Shop and the record making gig was kindly
videoed by Tony Berry with photography from Tom Quigley and Sharon Feery. The participants
and spectators really welcomed the record attempt as an additional event to the main festival and
one that can be developed further next year. All banjo players and boat skippers received a
world record certificate.
The organisers would like to thank the support received from Offaly County Council, the Offaly
Tourism Network and Hughie Lynch’s with respect to the Information and Welcome pack
supplied to all boats.
After the session, the crowd were entertained by local street performance artist Anthony O
Connor who enthralled one and all with his act. The 107B heritage boat which is a restored
canal barge used to celebrate the Heritage of the Grand Canal as a floating exhibition and
educational space was also present and it opened up free to the public for viewing, as did the
Grand Canal Cruise Barge Saoirse ar an Uisce, managed by Michael O Hanlon and operated by
the Sisters of Charity.
With the Festival over many of the boats and crews are staying for an extra week in Tullamore
before moving up the canal to the old Kilbeggan branch of the Grand Canal at Ballycommon to
join members of the Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group and Kilbeggan Harbour Amenity
Group to highlight the need to restore the Kilbeggan line of the Grand Canal for navigation and
tourism use.
Offaly Branch of IWAI – encouraging use and promotion of the
Grand Canal
24 September