The Friends’ Goodwill Festival launches today (Thursday) with a wave of top music artists and bands heading to Larne.
Four action-packed days of maritime-themed family fun are taking place in the town to mark the 300th anniversary of the departure of the Friends’ Goodwill ship from Larne to America back in 1717.
The entertainment includes outdoor concerts, exhibitions, displays, history re-enactments and American sports.
Singer-songwriter Una Healy will arrive in Larne having wowed audiences in the capital of American country music, Nashville, earlier this week.
Una, who recently embarked on a solo career after her chart-topping exploits with The Saturdays, headlines a fantastic line-up of artists and bands performing a wide range of music including country, Ulster-Scots, bluegrass and dance.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, said: “We are delighted to be hosting this festival which celebrates the legacy of the Friends’ Goodwill voyage and the deep links forged between Ulster and America.
“The Friends’ Goodwill Festival, organised by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, is free for the public to enjoy.
“I look forward to seeing a strong turnout to celebrate the rich shared culture and heritage of which we are so proud.”
The festival runs from today (May 18) until Sunday May 21.
American Dreams, a special play recounting the Friends’ Goodwill’s epic journey and the Ulster emigrants’ impact on the fledgling nation, is being staged at the McNeill Theatre, Larne, this evening (Thursay).
Then three days of outdoor activities, including concerts at Sandy Bay Playing Fields, take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Other events scheduled include a parade of sail, strongman competition, American football, living history performances and walking tours.
As well as Una Healy, other top performers who will take to the stage include Jim Devine, The Broken String Band, Marty Mone, Dana Masters, Philomena Begley, Four Men and a Dog, Barry Kirwan and Niamh McGlinchey.
The Friends’ Goodwill voyage is so significant as it is believed to have been the first emigrant ship to sail from Ulster to America in the 18th century. A free park and ride facility will be in operation from the Caterpillar site at the Old Glenarm Road, bringing visitors to the drop-off point at Larne Leisure Centre, close to the event site at Sandy Bay.
There will be three access points to the site: Rugby Road, Bay Road and Chelmsford Place. Disabled access-only via Tower Road.
There will be additional pick up and drop off points on Agnew Street.
The 359D Harbour service will also be in operation, picking up from Dunnes Stores, Main Street, and drop off at the Curran Road/Tower Road junction.
A specialised changing and toilet facility for disabled adults and children will make its Northern Ireland debut at the festival.
The Mobiloo houses state-of-the-art equipment and ensures dignity and respect for disabled festival-goers.
See full festival programme at https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/friends-goodwill-festival-2017