Birr Vintage Festival has been around since 1968, I grew up less that 40 kilometres away and one of my earliest memories was attending the Sunday parade with my parents. Since then the festival has continued to grow with the people of Birr embracing this Festival with growing enthusiasm.
It’s probably been 20 years since I last attended the festival so with no plans last Sunday we decided to make a visit. Birr’s is a town with impressively persevered Georgian architecture, tucked away just behind the square is Birr Castle home of the Earl of Rosse with beautifully laid out gardens. It includes the largest telescope in the world when completed in 1845 and was not surpassed in size until 1917. The museum in the grounds provides information of the many great discoveries that were made using the telescope. There is also a very interesting photography exhibition from Laurence Parsons, 4th Earl of Rosse and his mother both were eminent photographers at the beginning of the 20th century. You get a good insight into their lifestyle in the castle and that of Birr during that time. The castle unfortunately is not open to the public, though I did get a glimpse of the interior while working on a film there back in 1992.
Last Sunday we arrived just in time for the main parade which was observed by a crowd of about 10,000 people. As a kid I had a keen interest in the vintage cars on display and the air show was also a huge attraction, so it was a great to see it was still the star attraction, supplemented by old tractors, trucks and other novelties. What struck most last Sunday was a real sense of community spirit and involvement in their festival. Many of those families attending had come in period costume, and it was particularly interesting to see that the 20 something’s embracing the spirit of the festival. Even the bars and shops all the staff had gone to great lengths to dress in period costume.
When the parade was over we took time to explore the market stalls and the arts trail around the town, it was good to see the standard of art on display and equally interesting were some of the buildings. It’s great to see the festival is going from strength to strength which clearly demonstrates that community spirit is thriving in Birr. From my childhood memory it was sunny unfortunately it didn’t happen in Sunday.
Birr Vintage week & Arts Festival 3 – 10 of August 2012
© Tom Dowling 2012 image by Tom Dowling