Internationally acclaimed soloist, Aled Jones will take front of stage against the backdrop of Carrickfergus Castle, as the town marks the Northern Ireland Somme Centenary Festival of Remembrance with an open-air concert on the evening of 1 July.
Organised by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the WW1 Centenary Committee, the regional event will mark one hundred years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It led to the loss of close to 20,000 allied troops, out of a total of nearly 60,000 casualties, just on the first day alone.
As many as 4,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will include a veterans’ parade, featuring members of the Royal British Legion and led by the Band of the Irish Guards. The Queen’s Lord Lieutenant, Joan Christie OBE will be taking the salute on Marine Highway as the Queen’s representative at the event.
The parade will culminate under the historic walls of Carrickfergus Castle, where spectators will follow the story of the Battle of the Somme through military and orchestral music, drama performances and recitals, featuring letters from the trenches that will chart an emotional journey in the three-hour spectacular.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Billy Ashe, said: “We’re really excited by the planned programme for this the regional commemorative event and are honoured to be hosting on behalf of Northern Ireland. This is a fitting way to mark the service and sacrifice of so many, both from across the Borough and beyond, who went ‘over the top’ on that first day – and subsequent months – of the bloody Battle of the Somme.
“While tickets are free of charge, I would urge people to apply for them early and to come along and enjoy the spectacle and recall the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers who gave so much 100 years ago,” he added.
Tickets will be available from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council from 10am on Wednesday 1 June by phoning 0300 124 5000 or by calling at any of the Visitor Information Centres in Carrickfergus, Larne or Ballymena.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is the lead partner in the delivery of Northern Ireland’s Somme Centenary Festival of Remembrance, working with the WW1 Centenary Committee, the Ministry of Defence, the Royal British Legion and the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.
The concert forms part of the WW1 Centenary Committee’s programme to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, including the Northern Ireland Vigil at Bangor’s Clandeboye Estate – where Helen’s Tower is located – on 30 June in association with the Somme Heritage Centre. The Committee will also host a service in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast on Sunday 3 July.
The County Antrim War Memorial at Knockagh in the hills above Carrickfergus will continue to be the location for a separate service and march-past expected to attract around 300 participants, including military and ex-service organisations. This now annual event will take place on Sunday 26 June