Getting a taste for country living, Councillor Thomas Hogg, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, this week had a sneak preview of some of the attractions lined up for the 2015 Irish Game Fair & NI Angling Show at Shane’s Castle over the weekend of June 27 and 28.
The Council will be a key sponsor of the event, platforming the region’s rich rural heritage and country sports traditions to an audience of more than 25,000.
Additional financial backing from Tourism Northern Ireland will reinforce the position of the Fair as a major economic driver for the County and a ‘jewel in the crown’ of Northern Ireland’s sporting and social calendar.
Show Director Albert Titterington is looking forward to a show which has every promise of breaking new records.
He said: “Each year we build on success and I am delighted to announce that the NI Angling Show which we introduced as a show-within-a-show last year proved so successful that it will now be an annual highpoint.
“Angling is, famously, one of this country’s most popular participation sports so it is fitting that it should have its own major annual showcase, giving an important new dimension and vibrancy to a Game Fair which already encompasses the broadest possible range of country sports and pursuits.
“Over the next weeks and months we will be unveiling details about the special headline attractions, country sports challenges and family entertainment which will make the 2015 Fair one of the most diverse and exciting ever staged in Northern Ireland, but it is perhaps fitting that we get the ball rolling with news of the great fishing festival, actively supported by the DCAL Fisheries Division and the ROI’s Inland Fisheries Ireland , which will be such an attractive core element of the Shane’s Castle event.”
Speaking at the launch and emphasising the importance of country pursuits, heritage and attractions to his Borough, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Thomas Hogg, said, “The Council is delighted that the 2015 Irish Game Fair will return to Shane’s Castle in June and I would encourage everyone to visit. Major events such as this make a huge contribution to raising the profile of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough as a tourist destination throughout the island of Ireland and on the international stage.
“Shane’s Castle is the perfect setting for the Irish Game Fair with Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, providing the perfect backdrop. The Irish Game fair promises to be a memorable spectacle for all the family and I look forward in particular to the Northern Ireland Angling Show which will be one of the highlights on the day.”
Suzanne Campion, Head of Business Development within Inland Fisheries Ireland, which will be at Shane’s Castle for the first time this year, shares that enthusiasm, saying her organisation is looking forward to ‘a Great Game Fair’, adding, “We look forward to meeting old friends and those yet to experience the wonderful fishing opportunities on offer. Whether you wish to fish in Donegal or Dingle or anywhere in between, our experts will be on hand at Shane’s Castle with advice and tips.”
Support from Inland Fisheries Ireland and the DCAL will support discounted admission of anglers visiting the Shane’s Castle Fair and its sister event at Birr Castle, County Offaly in August. Discounts are accessed via a special voucher available from tackle dealers North and South.
Looking forward to the Shane’s Castle fair in June, John Blair from DCAL Inland Fisheries Group said, “We are delighted to support and attend the Irish Game Fair at Shanes Castle as a main exhibitor at the event. Previous years have shown us that this Fair, with its many thousands of visitors, is an ideal opportunity to engage with our established customers and the wider public. It is also a tremendous benefit that we have been able to work with the Fair organisers to provide entrance fee discount vouchers for DCAL Angling Licence holders.
“It was also most encouraging that, as a result of discussions at last year’s show, the Department was also able to engage with groups who assist adults and children with special needs. This engagement is most helpful in helping the Department meet NI Executive targets which are focussed on promoting equality through tackling poverty and preventing social exclusion.”
Ashley Graham of Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI) is once again delighted to be involved with Shane’s Castle event.
She said: “Situated within magnificent surroundings and with attractions to suit all ages and interests, the Fair provides a great day out for all the family. The Fair also gives CAI the ideal opportunity to showcase our work while engaging with members, potential members and the public in general. Exhibiting alongside CAI will be the NI Branch of the British Deer Society and we are pleased to sponsor various events including clay pigeon shooting, terriers and lurchers and Keith Mathew’s Arena events. We would love to see you, so please do come along to see us and show your support for country sports and our rural heritage.”
Support, too, from the influential Scottish Association for Shooting & Conservation.
Alex Stoddart from the SACS said: “Angling is so much part of the country sports heritage of Northern Ireland and we are delighted to be part of the grassroots ‘angling for everyone’ initiative.
“For over twenty years, SACS has supported anglers across the UK in challenging lease and legislative matters, political lobbying and also in getting more young people out fishing, enjoying nature’s harvest and the wild outdoors. We look forward to supporting the work of key partners, such as Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Association of Professional Game Angling Instructors Ireland and all the hard-working local angling organisations.”
The importance of making angling accessible to children and young people will be emphasised a “Put & Take fishery” run by No Salmon Nets. The venture, which was piloted last year, proved enormously successful, as mark Tierney from NSN explains, “Due to the volume of visitors last year, we welcome the assistance from Loughmacrory Angling Club who have five newly qualified Level 1 Angling Coaches willing to assist us during the event. We learned a lot last year and hope to put what we learned to good use and make the whole experience much more enjoyable. The whole package entails dropping in to the APGAI Ireland Fly Dressers stand to tie up a fly, have a few casting lessons with the APGAI Ireland Casting Instructors, and then come catch a rainbow trout which can be taken home for the table, cooked on site by Emmett McCourt or released if preferred. So, bring your kids along to our stand which is located on the way out of the fair right on the shore of the Lough. We would like to recognise the contribution that DCAL’s Inland Fisheries have made this year again with the donation of trout and we would also like to thank George Kelly from Milbro for the donation of rods for the event and Loughmacrory Anglers for the loan of extra equipment if required. Permitted methods will be fly in designated areas and bait fishing in designated area.”
Emphasising the value of the angling focus at the Shane’s Castle Fair to the economy of Northern Ireland, Cathy Chauhan, representing Lough Neagh, said: “Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative has been amongst the forerunners of wild eel producers for decades and is recognised as the largest producer of wild caught eels in Europe, producing around 400 tonnes of eels annually. We are a Co-operative, protecting the livelihood of fishermen and providing a sustainable, viable future for eel fishing on Lough Neagh.
“Our product, ‘Lough Neagh Eel’, was awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) in 2011. This award recognises the heritage, tradition and authenticity of the best quality eels in Europe. We produce packs of fresh and frozen eels. In addition, we are developing Lough Neagh Smoked Eel.
“We will be mounting a large fish-orientated stand at the Shane’s Castle Game Fair and will be working with celebrity chef, Emmett McCourt, on some exciting recipes for his cooking demonstrations.”
Show Director Albert Titterington added: “The Game Fair at Shane’s Castle has grown from my personal passion, shared with other like-minded individuals and organisations, for our countryside heritage, sports and pursuits. It is a celebration of everything associated with our ‘great outdoors’ and encourages all of us to enjoy the natural beauties of this wonderful region. Importantly, in this tough economic climate, the Game Fair benefits the local economy, as a major visitor attraction, providing great rurally-themed entertainment for visitors and, through international press and media coverage, by showcasing those opportunities to potential visitors around the world.”
Eddie Rowan from Tourism Northern Ireland reinforces that view, saying, “I am pleased to see the event continue to mature as an appealing family festival with such a high quality programme of events on offer for all to enjoy. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of the event managers that the Irish Game Fair is capable of attracting visitors not only at home but from further afield. On behalf of Tourism Northern Ireland I would like to wish visitors and participants an enjoyable events experience.”
Visit www.irishgamefair.com to find out more.