The All-Ireland Drama Festival in Athlone has secured sponsorship from RTÉ for another three years.
Now the organisers of the 62nd festival are calling on local people and businesses to make it the best one yet, and to give visitors such a positive experience that they’ll come back to the town again and again.
Festival director Joe McCarrick said the event, which takes place from May 1 to 10, is worth €0.5m to the town with bed nights, ticket sales, and local spend.
He said it is the biggest and most important festival of its kind in Europe, and is unique among national Irish festivals because of its volunteer committee.
Mr McCarrick said it’s not a given that Athlone would host the event every year as the decision is made annually by members of the amateur drama council and other towns have applied in the past for the privilege.
He urged businesses to get involved by hosting, sponsoring, or supporting a fringe event, but especially by talking up the festival and being positive about it with, for example, shop window displays.
“We don’t want a good festival. We want a great festival. We want to raise the profile, build the atmosphere and feel the passion together,” he said.
This year sees an RTÉ broadcaster mentoring each drama group, with names like Marian Finucane, John Murray, Joe Duffy, and Miriam O’Callaghan getting involved.
“It’s a sense of giving a shout out to the groups on a particular night,” said RTÉ’s head of Radio One, Tom Maguire.
“They’ll all take a play and adopt that play as the one they’re going to support.”
The Mount Temple man said this is a way of highlighting what’s going on in Athlone to a national and international audience.
There will also be a chance for the top individual actors to screen test for Fair City as the casting crew from the programme will attend every play.
Carmel Duffy of Athlone.ie, who manages the project from Athlone Town Council’s perspective, asked the people of Athlone to roll out the red carpet for festival visitors.
This will help to ensure repeat business, she said, but added the importance of giving value, so visitors don’t feel prices are hiked just because there’s a national festival on.
She said it is important that everyone in the town is informed about events and locations, is proud of the festival, gets involved, and spreads the word.
“The potential is limitless if we want it to be,” she said.