Amazing Grace Festival 2015

Amazing Grace Festival 2015 (8th-12th April)

A look back at the festival by Ruth Garvey-Williams

All photos by Adam Rory Porter/Andrew Garvey-Williams

Wednesday 8 April: Firework Display and Opening Celebration

Over 1,200 people attended the fantastic display from Rocket Pyrotechnics which proved the talk of the town for several days (first fireworks in Buncrana for five years).  The programme included dance, fire juggling/ fire breathing and Japanese drumming as part of the show.  Officially opening the festival, Cllr Nicholas Crossan welcomed everyone to the event, which marked the anniversary of John Newton’s historic arrival in Lough Swilly on April 8, 1748 and explained the significance of the story.


Thursday 9 April: Singing and Dance workshops

Nineteen people attended workshops at The Exchange, Castle Avenue including a group of seven young adults from Cashel na Cor Resource Centre for people with learning disabilities.  Seven of the young people performed during the finale event at The Plaza on Sunday.


Thursday 9 April: Giant Beach Art Attack (in partnership with Artlink Buncrana)

Est. 200 people participating during the course of the afternoon to create (and walk through) a giant labyrinth in the shape of a ship surrounded by many other boats and ships created out of sand.  Great weather really brought the crowd and the end result was stunning!

Beach Art

Thursday 9 April: The fourth annual John Newton Lecture (in partnership with West Inishowen History and Heritage Society)

A total of 48 people attended the lecture by Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD exploring the life and legacy of William Wilberforce.  Posing the question, “Can politics change history?” Padraig explained, “It is people who change history, using politics as a tool.”  The lecture was extremely well received with a lively question and answer session afterwards.  It follows in the tradition of the John Newton lectures, which connect history with modern issues of social justice.

Newton Talk

Friday 10 April: Family Fun Day

Over 200 people attended the Amazing Grace Festival Family Fun Day at The Exchange with great feedback from the families and a constant “buzz” throughout the day.  The “transformation” theme was explored through crafts and games, a dress-up photo booth and much more!  Children loved taking the wheel of “The Greyhound” like John Newton in 1748.

Family Fun Day
Family Fun Day I

Interactive I


Saturday 11: MAD Challenge (in partnership with Tidy Towns)

Volunteers were involved in cleaning the Feel Good mural on the New Street (more work needed), painting over graffiti down in the alleyway between the library car park and the Main Street and creating new murals for Main Street and the old Faulett Factory.  The artwork was completed after the festival by artist Andrew Garvey-Williams with the Faulett Factory murals referencing the industrial history of the building.

(Before: The Much Weathered Old Main Street Mural)

Mural Before

(After: The New Gleaming Main Street Mural. With Artist Andrew Garvey-Williams)

Mural After

(New Textile Inspired Murals outside the old Faulett Factory)
New Factory Mural

Saturday 11 and Sunday 12: Transformation Art Exhibition and the John Newton Experience

A total of 63 people visited the two exhibitions over the course of two days with tremendous feedback on both the range of artwork (60 pieces submitted by over 40 artists, photographers, etc.) and the interactive John Newton experience featuring history come to life.  Many people stayed for over an hour!  A number of overseas visitors came in and seemed to really appreciate the exhibition.  The popular history experience features the story of John Newton with opportunities for visitors to engage in creative ways such as writing with a quill pen, taking the helm of The Greyhound and writing their own hymn lyrics.


Art II


Sunday 12 April: Festival Finale

The Festival Finale was a relaxed and intimate “cabaret-style” theatre show at The Plaza Theatre with a focus on the spiritual significance of the Amazing Grace story. Actor Shay Phelan from Dublin brought the John Newton story to life with a powerful re-enactment of Newton’s arrival into Lough Swilly using Newton’s own words from his autobiography.  Music, dance, video and rap were also part of the multi media programme.

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