Dance to the beat of African drums at the Old Fort Quarter Festival

There is an excellent line up of family friendly street theatre events

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan

Dance to the beat of African drums at the Old Fort Quarter Festival

The puppet show was a great success last year. Photo by Denis Byrne.

The line-up of family friendly events for the Old Fort Quarter Festival adds up to a promising weekend with workshops and entertainment for people of all ages to enjoy.

“We are looking forward to filling the streets of Portlaoise with Jambe music.”

Those are the words of David Day, who runs a West African percussion song and dance group called Jabba Jabba Jembe.

The high energy percussion group will be holding open drumming sessions at various times throughout the Saturday and Sunday of the Old Fort Quarter Festival in Portlaoise this weekend.

Anyone will be able to join in the drumming circle for free and enjoy playing together in a lively group atmosphere.

David Day from Naas, is the founder of Jabba Jabba Jembe, and he has been studying African and World Drumming for over 20 years.

“Jambe is a traditional instrument that has been used for hundreds of years to bring people together. It is traditionally used for public gatherings, family celebrations, weddings, communities coming together and celebrating harvest, it is an instrument of joy and happiness,” he said.

Mr Day has previously held drumming sessions with children in schools around Laois, at Electric Picnic and all over the country.

Between twenty and thirty people can join in with the drumming at one time and this promises to bring a lively festival atmosphere to the streets over the weekend.

The drumming sessions will be set up in a circle where anyone can grab a spare drum and join in.

The Jabba Jabba Jembe drumming circle is just one aspect of the fantastic family fun that will be on hand.

Michelle de Forge has been organising the street theatre events.

“We booked some of the top theatre companies in the country to bring colour and life to the streets for the weekend. The magicians and acrobats coming to Portlaoise perform internationally and are much sought after for some of the top festivals in Ireland,” she said.

Children and their grown-ups are encouraged to get hands on with the arts and crafts workshops that will be ongoing over the weekend in a shop unit on Main Street.

There will be magic tricks and acrobats in the family entertainment area as well as free face painting , balloon modelling and more.

“As you and your family are walking through the streets you will meet very tall characters patrolling the area.

These stilt walkers will pose for selfies and entertain all ages,” Mrs de Forge added.

Walking tours of the fort will take place starting at Fitzmaurice’s Square following the new poster trail around the fort perimeter in the company of the Laois Heritage Society Guides.

These tours take around 30 minutes and again, they will be designed to suit all ages.

Festival organisers are happy that an Abbeyleix based company will be providing more family fun on the street with giant games of Jenga and Connect Four. GiantGamesHire.ie are based in Abbeyleix and the festival is delighted to support local businesses as much as possible.

On Sunday, families can expect a puppet show as No Strings Attached Puppet Theatre present The Ugly Duckling.

Also on Sunday there will be a family fun treasure hunt around the town for everyone to learn more about the fascinating old fort quarter.

Talks will be held upstairs in Kavanagh's bar on Saturday June 24 from 2-6pm. 

Everyone is encouraged to drop in throughout these talks and learn some fascinating history. 

The talks are family friendly for history buffs of all ages and curious kids.

Speakers include Richard McLoughlin who will chat about the evolution of the Town of Portlaoise, Michael Moylan from Irish

History Live who will talk about Customs and Costumes in Tudor Ireland, Dr Eoin O'Sullivan will showcase recent excavation of the fort and Diarmuid Whelan will inform everyone on the history of the fort and its turbulent past.

The festival will take place this weekend in Portlaoise June 23, 24 and 25.

Read more about the festival here.

Check out the Old Fort Quarter Facebook page here.