Cllr. Gillian Fitzpatrick, Chairperson, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council today launched Newry and Mourne Museum’s new Performing Arts project. 

The programme for the Play Right Again Barnum staged in Newry in the 1940's with renowned Comedian James Young on the cast.
The programme for the Play Right Again Barnum staged in Newry in the 1940's with renowned Comedian James Young on the cast.

The project will research and enhance engagement with the Museum’s extensive performing arts collection which comprises programmes, photographs, posters, leaflets, newspaper cuttings, costumes and trophies relating to performing arts organisations and competitions in the Newry and Mourne area. The project will also record for posterity the rich oral history of those who have been involved in performances since the 1930s. Outputs include online and travelling exhibitions, reminiscence activities and an audio-visual resource. 

Four volunteers will be recruited to assist with the project. They will volunteer one day a week for six months. Their duties will range from assisting with sorting items to helping with transcription of oral recordings and production of exhibitions and booklets. Training will be provided in collections care, collections management and interpretation. The volunteers will, therefore, gain valuable experience and transferable skills, which will be of use to them if they are seeking employment in the museum and heritage sector. 

The project is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund (administered by the Museums Association), which focuses on time-limited collections work outside the scope of a heritage organisation’s core resources. Newry and Mourne Museum is one of only six museums from across the United Kingdom to have received a share of £521,509 in the current grant round.

Speaking about the project, the Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Cllr. Gillian Fitzpatrick said “I am delighted that the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has provided the funding to take forward this exciting project. The grant will allow the Museum to significantly improve the understanding, appreciation and use of its performing art collection. To be awarded this prestigious and highly competitive grant from a national body like the Museums Association is a great achievement for the Museum and its staff. In a district with a strong reputation for amateur drama and music, I am sure the project will be a source of pride and inspiration for local Performing Arts groups, museum visitors and young people who are participants in the Arts.” 

The inside of the Right Again Barnum programme.
The inside of the Right Again Barnum programme.

Noreen Cunningham, Curator of Newry and Mourne Museum, said “We are delighted to welcome Dr Robert Whan to the Museum. He will lead and co-ordinate the project and make accessible the fantastic local material that has been donated to the Museum relating, for instance, to Newry Musical and Operatic Society, Newry Drama Festival, the Feis, Newpoint Players and school productions. This project will celebrate in a tangible way the impact that these organisations have had. Robert looks forward to working in partnership with local music and drama groups to record people’s memories and these oral history recordings will be an important legacy of the project, providing a human dimension to the items in the Museum collection.”

If you have any relevant objects or information, would like to share your own memories of performing arts activities in Newry and Mourne or to express an interest in the volunteering opportunities attached to the project, contact Dr Robert Whan by email at or call 028 3031 3173.

Newry and Mourne Museum is open to the public seven days a week with admission free of charge. For opening hours, information on events and exhibitions, other services and bookings please visit

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