Portaferry gala to go virtual

The highly anticipated Portaferry Gala will be taking a modern twist this year

The highly anticipated Portaferry Gala will be taking a modern twist this year with plans of going virtual.

While many events have had no other choice but to cancel with the uncertain times ahead, Portaferry Gala committee members have got creative to ensure the festival is celebrated in the best and safest way possible.

The event which has fondly been dubbed ‘The Great Gadget Gala 2020’, will involve the use of social media and technology to showcase competitions and more, with the aim of keeping community spirits high. The event will run from July 18 – 24.

Talking about the innovative festival, Mary Mageean, the gala committee chairwoman, explained the committee was faced with the possibility of cancelling the festival which has been running for over 50 years.

Together they came up with a solution which would allow them to produce a virtual gala, meaning social distancing would be adhered to as people participated using modern technology.

“We still aren’t sure what regulations will be in place come July, but I can’t see there not being some degree of social distancing in place,” said Mary.

“We wanted to do something for our community to lift spirits and keep things going because everybody looks forward to Gala Week – it’s a highlight in our calendar – so having nothing just wasn’t an option.”

While the traditional gala is famed for its float parade, due to current circumstances, this will not be an option this year.

However, the committee has worked hard to offer alternative events which can be enjoyed in a socially distanced manner, despite a lack of funding this year.

“We did have some lovely ideas for this year with our new, young and dynamic committee, but 2021 is going to be good,” Mary joked.

Talking about some of the events planned for this year, Mary highlighted how people could get involved in gardening competitions using activity packs which will soon be available, storytelling puppet competitions and The Talk of the Walk.

Hoping to temporarily replace this year’s famed float parade, The Talk of the Walk, encourages people to decorate outside the area they live in with a theme – turning the traditional mobile float into a stationary area that can be photographed and admired by those out on walks.

Ferry FM, a firm fixture of the gala, will be online this year at 6pm every night during the festival with the theme ‘your memories and your music’.

“We are hoping that people will be creative as we have a very creative population and these are the sort of things we want to sow the seeds now so that people can get thinking about that,” Mary added.

Mary highlighted that the most important thing for the committee was ensuring the community was not put at risk.

Keeping in line with current restrictions, competitions will be run online and on social media, allowing people to engage with entries. Mary said young children wanting to participate would need to seek the permission and help from their parent or guardian.  

Portaferry councillor Joe Boyle gave his ‘highest praise to all those working on the committee for their dedication.

He congratulated the committee on making a ‘good early call’ to adapt the festival.

“They are very committed and very determined to make sure something happens and you can only give them the highest praise for that,” he said.

Information about the upcoming festival competitions will be circulated to the local area soon on a flyer composed by gala organisers. A range of activity packs will be made available for families, people living on their own and the elderly.

A helpline will also be set up for those who wish to participate but do not possess a gadget.