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Northern Ireland's past still present as Folk Museum festival celebrates heritage traditions

Ulster Folk Museum’s new Making Festival on August 19th and 20th will honour traditional craft skills.

Costumed makers who work the Ulster Folk Museum, showing traditional heritage skills of printing and weaving pictured inside the authentic basket maker's workshop with willow creations on display. Representatives from the museum and CITB NI are standing in the middle with the costumed guides either side.
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The Ulster Folk Museum has announced it will host a new Making Festival at the museum to celebrate our traditional crafts and support the revival of Northern Ireland’s most-cherished heritage skills. The two-day, family-friendly festival, planned in partnership with The Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITB NI), will take place Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August. 

From drystone walling to stonemasonry, to the craftsmanship of signwriting, stained glass and thatching; visitors will have the chance to watch and participate in these time-honoured practices and many more at-risk skills. Visitors will also have the chance to experience lively traditional music sessions and film screenings in the Ulster Folk Museum’s original Picture House. 

The Ulster Folk Museum, established in 1964, was created to safeguard the unique way of life that defined the people of Ulster. 

Susan Starrett, General Manager at the Ulster Folk Museum said:

“The Making Festival will be a special weekend of discovery and participation, celebrating Northern Ireland's rich traditions, and showcasing the talents of our artisans. The festival is an opportunity for visitors to rekindle or ignite appreciation for these remarkable skills and traditions that we actively preserve and demonstrate here at the museum, so that they can learn more about them, be inspired and keep them alive for future generations. We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to meet with our makers in what promises to be a fun-filled yet enlightening event."

Barry Neilson, Chief Executive of The Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITB NI) emphasises the significance of preserving our traditional skills. 

“Heritage skills form a small but vital part of our construction sector. In recent years we have seen a decline in people taking these skills forward, putting these skills and our built heritage at risk. We're proud to collaborate with the Ulster Folk Museum to celebrate these valuable skills in a new and exciting way and hope this festival will inspire people to reconnect with their heritage and to become the next generation of master craftspeople.”

Plans are currently underway to ‘reawaken’ the Ulster Folk Museum and unlock its potential as a dynamic heritage and environment resource. Plans include the repurposing of currently inactive and underutilised spaces to create dynamic learning facilities which will enable greater participation in activities such as heritage craft skills and environmental volunteering. The proposed scheme also includes two new, carefully located buildings. A ‘Culture Hub’ will create a greater sense of welcome and orientation for visitors, whilst an ‘Industry Zone’ will tell the story of industrialisation and unlock the potential of a unique collection of items currently inaccessible to the public.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI said: 

“We’re incredibly passionate about safeguarding and preserving Northern Ireland's distinctive heritage skills and cherished customs. We believe that museums of today hold the power to enhance learning, promote wellbeing, and foster a deeper sense of connection. The Making Festival is a wonderful example of how Ulster Folk Museum can forge fresh and innovative ways to engage people with Northern Ireland's heritage.”

In addition to showcasing Northern Ireland’s unique building traditions, the Making Festival will host a craft fair in collaboration with Craft NI throughout the weekend, coinciding with August Craft Month. Other highlights within the event programme include woodturning, musical instrument making and traditional food demonstrations.