Story by Mourne Observer Newspaper 16/2/2022
THE Festival of Flight will not be returning to Newcastle this year. On Monday, the council’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) Committee agreed its relaunched tourism events programme for 2022/23 in closed session, and the aerial extravaganza – an annual crowd-puller in prepandemic times – has not been scheduled.
Confirming the noninclusion, Mournes Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke stated that there was now an opportunity to stage a major new event in the town. “It will not be possible to host the Festival of Flight in Newcastle this year,” he said. “Although this will be disappointing to regular visitors to the air show, an opportunity exists to host a new large-scale festival in Newcastle this summer, which incorporates and builds on the most popular elements of the festival – a showcase of the outstanding food and drink of the region and Newcastle, alongside incorporating the arts, culture and music, creating opportunities to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit and pioneering innovation of the district.”
The local representative confirmed that he has “requested a meeting with officers to explore different themes for the festival, including improving the narrative of St Donard”. “On the summit of Slieve Donard are the remains of two prehistoric burial cairns, one of which is the remains of the highest known passage tomb in Ireland,” he said. “
In Irish mythology, the mountain was associated with, and named after, the mythical figures Boirche and Slángha. “It was later associated with, and named after, St Donard, who was said to have made the summit his hermitage, and this heritage can be linked with the increase in walking in the Mournes.” Cllr Clarke said that he also wants to explore a nautical theme, celebrating the rich maritime history of the area, outdoor water sports, and the possibility of a regional dish competition. “This opportunity presents us with the chance to showcase everything that is good about Newcastle for visitors and locals alike,” he concluded.
“The positive impact of the council’s tourism events programme provides support for local businesses, helps to sustain jobs, and creates an economic return across the district.” The Festival of Flight was last held in 2019, when over 100,000 spectators turned out to watch the Red Arrows take to the skies for an aerobatic display. The event fell foul of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and to the weather in 2018. When contacted for comment, a council spokesperson highlighted that Monday’s discussion was held in closed session, and, as such, “details of the confirmed events programme for this incoming financial year will be announced in due course, subject to ratification by full council.”