Ards Comhaltas

Ards Comhaltas, established 1 July 1976, is a non-profit organisation formed to promote and foster the love of Irish traditional music, song and dance to people from all backgrounds in the North Down/Ards areas and further afield.

About Ards Comhaltas

David Lennon, Vice Chair of Ards Comhaltas, introduces the involvement of Ards Comhaltas with Friends of Columbanus, Bangor.

When I joined ARDS CCE over five years ago, I was keen to put Columbanus to the fore. I designed the new logo (three saints in a boat) and suggested we record a CD. With funding from my fellow partners, we produced a first CD, Shores of Strangford.

Next, Ards CCE was booked to play Aviles Spain, associated with Columbanus through having a protected beach on which legend says he ran aground on the back of a whale. The idea grew that, like Columbanus, Ards CCE was bringing music and words to Europe and, although Columbanus never actually went to Spain, we featured him on the festival poster. If only Bangor had protected beach too.

Following success in Spain, I suggested recording The White Dove CD. I wrote the song, which won a medal at the all-Ireland fleadh, and has aired on several radio programmes including BBC world service and BBC Ulster Downtown radio.

The Ards CCE Folk Festival has been running for a few years. With its logo to the fore, it was a natural progression to rename the Festival, ‘The Columbanus Cross-Community Folk Festival’. Before this, Bangor had hosted the county fleadh so the festivals had kept the momentum rolling. We have recently had a massive boost on hearing that Bangor was to host the 2016 Ulaidh Fleadh (Ulster Festival) and, during my presentation to the Ulster Branch, Columbanus was highlighted as a draw for Europeans: we intend to focus on him. There have already been tee shirts, stickers, and posters issued during previous events.

ARDS CCE has been, of course, centrally involved with the now annual Bangor Abbey Columbanus Celebration concerts.

One of our tours was to New York over Saint Patrick’s Day 2015. Our hosts used our ‘three saints’ logo as the back drop to the major concert, and I took great delight in telling the 600 strong audience who Columbanus was and the importance of Bangor in world history!

Our next event was the 2015 folk festival[1], which has an exciting timetable of cross-community events in and around Bangor town. The Ulster Fleadh brought upwards of 80,000 visitors to Bangor, many of whom came for the first time. Participants from all sections of the community were invited to take part. Adding to the usual programme, fifes and lambegs featured, Scottish dancing, Ulster Scots performers. With all sections contributing under the banner of Columbanus and Bangor, light of the world, we achieved wonderful things,

After the festival, Ards Comhaltas travelled Bobbio to play for 4 days and nights.

ARDS CCE has up to 80 musicians turning up for classes each Saturday… It is totally cross-community and has a number of all Ireland, Ulster and County champions.

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