Armagh Fusion Festival
Following a competitive tender process by Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council for a creative events agency to work with the Council Tourism Team to co-curate and deliver a stand out Festival for Armagh city and the surrounding area, MayWe was appointed to the role.
The Council and its partners were in the process of bidding for UK City of Culture 2025. One of the principal aims of the Festival therefore was to demonstrate and reignite interest, passion and acknowledgement of the immense breadth of unique, authentic assets across the Borough and particularly in Armagh city, which embraces so many things: science, history, architecture, literature and language, art, food, film, crafts and music. The working concept was City as Gallery.
Our team immediately embraced the theme and totally immersed ourselves in Armagh as a place of such significance on the island of Ireland. We spent substantial time on site visits, meeting with local practitioners, venue owners and managers, conducting their own research on the history of Armagh and also the myths and legends associated with this historic place. Utilising our creative skills, powers of modern interpretation and respect for the traditions and thought provoking nature of the place, we devised a stand out Festival programme, the Armagh Fusion Festival and thankfully had the support of all involved.
The Festival was held over the course of two weekends in March and April 2022 to much acclaim, with audience feedback exemplary. Events included an impressive fire garden installation in the grounds of the Armagh Observatory, a Cirque du Cider extravaganza in an Armagh Apple Orchard, a Rewaken gig featuring NI musician Ryan McMullan held in the ancient grounds overlooking Navan Fort, a Bowling & Brunch at one of the area’s famous cideries, a Tales & Tunes (of Armagh) walking tour of the City, a Faces & Places walking tour series complete accompanied by specially commissioned ‘Big Heads’ associated with centuries old people that have made Armagh the place it is today. Other highlights included an Art after Dark event that awakened cultural venues with unusual experiences, a Poet, Piper and Painter light show projection featuring Armagh born JB Vallely, the Palace Retreat hosted in the beautiful surrounds of the former Archbishop’s Palace in the City, a Ceildh Fusion in the Shambles building and a wonderful demonstration of crafts from our famed Orchard County hosted near the site of the Battle of the Diamond.
“Whilst creativity was at the very heart of MayWe’s approach, their attention to detail in terms of the Festival delivery, their respect for local practitioners and what they do and their dedication and hard work were stand outs.
The juxtaposition and merging of ancient traditions and places with modern entertainment and new takes on old stories was so unique and the first of its kind within the Borough. The legacy of MayWe’s approach to the curation of the Armagh Fusion Festival and their unique creative approach means that the Council has a blueprint for future Festivals and events together with the confidence to know that there is an appetite amongst the general public for Festivals of this nature in the future.”
Banbridge Festival of Fire and Light
In 2022 Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council wished to host an event to support their ambitions to showcase Banbridge as a leading retail, hospitality and visitor destination in NI. After a competitive tendering process we were appointed to deliver this exciting project.
Once appointed we took our initial plans and thoughts to the next stage and conducted a full programme of familiarisation within Banbridge with consultation with the Council team, multiple stakeholders including venue owners/managers, local and regional culture and arts practitioners to gain a better understanding of assets, aspirations and capabilities for co-curation and co-delivery of the events programme. Our plan was to develop our initial thoughts and implement a cultural and tourism focused events, experiences and animation programme for Banbridge, linking with the area’s heritage and history within the town’s landscape and the Game of Thrones Studio which was opening in February 2022 Through this plan and extensive marketing campaign we focused our efforts in providing an extensive creative programme which appealed to and attracted an audience from outside the Borough as well as providing activities for residents.
We worked closely with the local community and businesses to co-design the festival programme which promoted the area’s heritage, culture and places with local significance to drive footfall, attract additional economic activity, drive spend and encourage bed nights within Banbridge. The Festival of Fire and Light offered something for all the family and saw Banbridge town centre light up with an exhilarating three-day programme of events.
The festival featured bespoke workshops, storytelling, circus,street theatre, comedy and music. Solitude Park hosted free family fun, art installations and fire performances and the festival concluded with a talk from the legendary Sir Ranulph Fiennes about his life and adventures. As part of the festival Banbridge also played host to Illumaphomium, a dynamic and interactive, multi-sensory, music making installation – the first of its kind and it’s first ever visit to the Northern Ireland!
“Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council partnered with MayWe for the delivery of our Festival of Fire & Light in Banbridge in April 2022. The team at MayWe were a pleasure to work with, taking control of all aspects of the delivery of the event, providing innovative and stimulating content for all ages and engaging effectively with a significant number of stakeholders including local politicians, traders and statutory authorities. Delivered at relatively short notice, the event proved hugely successful down to the efforts of the team across all aspects of delivery and has led to calls from our traders to make it an annual event, such was the impact that the event had on the town over the weekend of the festival.”
2 Royal Avenue
In April 2022 MayWe were appointed as the contractor for programming, venue management and café provision of the incredible 2 Royal Avenue building in Belfast city centre from 1 August 2022 to 31 December 2023. From April 2022-April 2023 we have hosted or programmed over 500 events and workshops and have welcomed over 130,000 visitors to the space.
On appointment, MayWe set up and managed a full calendar of creative and unique programme for the space including music, food, visual art, performance, and multi-disciplinary events, which appealed to a large and varied audience, accessible to all. We marketed the events through our Social Media pages and liaised with BCC Comms and Visit Belfast to promote the events.
MayWe created bespoke programmes of activity for special holidays, including Jubilee celebrations with a visit from the Earl and Countess of Wessex, a ‘Winter’s Den’ 6 week long Christmas programme from November-December and themed activity for Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Lord Mayor’s Day, exhibitions and seasonal markets featuring creations from local artists and makers. We ran and scheduled a programme of daytime events during the core opening hours of 10am to 6pm which were aimed a wide variety of potential audiences/visitors to the city; this included Tai chi, baby boogie session, mindfulness, health and wellbeing workshops and a cosmic dance party.
MayWe ensures that 2 Royal Avenue is operated 7 days a week, and in the past year has introduced a number of new elements to the space to ensure the venue is inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all. Some elements include: upgrade of the sensory dome, introduction of a homework table, commission of an artist to redesign baby changing space to make it more and peaceful for parents and babies, creation of bespoke cushions for dome area to enable visitors to admire the architecture, became a JAM friendly venue and introduced braille menus for the in-house café.
MayWe manage the expression of interest system for anyone who shows interest in using the space for creative, cultural (and not-for-profit) events, passing these to Council and in partnership liaised to ensure to fit appropriate requests into the 2 Royal Avenue programming calendar.
During our time managing and delivering the creative programming we welcomed and engaged with people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and nationalities. We delivered on creating a space for heritage, to reimagine the city centre, provided a cultural venue and one that would attract investment for the city centre whilst providing a performance space, creating a tourism attraction. The project has provided a catalyst for economic activity, it has provided social value through a shared public environmental space and is creating a placemaking space through public connections and linkages. This has been an exciting and fulfilling community and cultural project which we would like to have the opportunity to build and deliver further.