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Bunratty Castle

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Exhibition marks 60 years of the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet
More than 3 million people have attended the banquets since their inception in the 1960s
 Fri 26th May 2022

The 60th anniversary of the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet was celebrated in County Clare this week with the launch of a new exhibition chartering the history, evolution and popularity of one of Ireland’s oldest running evening entertainment shows.

More than 3 million people have attended the banquets since the dramatic idea of a medieval meal in a 15th century Irish castle captured the imagination of travel agents, dignitaries, and celebrities worldwide in the 1960s.

Officially opening the exhibition, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Cllr. Tony O’Brien said the banquet’s international appeal remains as strong today as it did back in the 1960s when the visionary Dr. O’Regan spearheaded its inception.

He added, “An integral driver to the growth of US visitors to the West of Ireland in the 1960s, this magical evening of medieval music, mead and merriment is still going strong 60 years later having welcomed over 3 million guests and overcome economic and social adversity throughout its long history. I want to congratulate everyone associated with its continued success.”

The Bunratty Banquet Exhibition, which is located within the grounds of the Folk Park, features pictorial records of the banquets over the past six decades, video footage of performances from the past to the present day, interviews with former and current performers and producers, and displays of costumes and instruments that have been donated by past entertainers.

Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, commented, “Aside from being a notable landmark in the Clare countryside, Bunratty has been at the forefront of the Mid West Region’s tourism story for many decades. Dr O’Regan’s vision brought about this venture and the commitment and creativity of hundreds of people down through the past 60 years has ensured its enduring popularity.”

Entertainment at the banquets is provided by the world-famous Bunratty Castle Singers with enchanting melodies to harp and violin accompaniment. Less than 3 months after the first commercial banquet got underway, international fame came to the Singers when they performed twice for US President John F Kennedy. The Singers performed for President Nixon at the White House, and have appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Rockefeller Centre and as the interval act for the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest. The group has also performed for US President Ronald Reagan, President of France Charles de Gaulle, Pope John Paul II, Crown Prince Akihto of Japan, Princess Grace, Bob Hope and The Beatles.

Meanwhile, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park will host a festival later this year, marking the integral role of the Irish Harp to the banquet offering and the importance of the instrument and national emblem in the growth and popularity of Irish music worldwide. The Festival, hosted in collaboration with Deirdre O'Brien Vaughan of The Irish Institute of Traditional Music, will present visitors with the opportunity to enjoy performances by past and present Bunratty Castle Entertainers and renowned harpists, as well as partake in specially commissioned harp workshops.

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