Armagh Rhymers on song in Baltics

The Armagh Rhymers, the Portadown-based social enterprise, has lined up business contacts in Estonia and Lithuania following participation in a recent Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to the Baltics.

The Rhymers, one of Northern Ireland’s most successful folk music-theatre ensembles, has developed contacts with the organisers of major music festivals and folk parks in both markets.

The group has been invited to take part in the Estonian Song Festival in Tallinn later in the year.

The success in the Estonia and Lithuania was announced by Dara Valley, Artistic Director of the Armagh Rhymers, and welcomed by Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Trade Director, during a visit to the group’s offices in Portadown.

Dr Kell said: “We supported the Rhymers to take part in the mission to the Baltics because the group is a social enterprise focused on developing business for the benefit of the local community. The secured business will likely lead to additional opportunities for backup staff and other performers in Co Armagh and other parts of Northern Ireland.

“The group is now harnessing the many contacts made during the mission that will boost its earnings and could also attract performers and other visitors particularly from Estonia and Lithuania to Northern Ireland, which supports the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s NI2012 Our Time Our Place campaign.

“Assisting creative industries, including groups like the Armagh Rhymers, to win business in international markets is an important part of our overall export growth strategy to encourage all potential exporters to take action. It’s certainly among the most unusual export successes.”

Mr Valley, commenting on the mission, said: “We chose to go to Estonia and Lithuania largely because of the close links that have developed between Armagh and both nations as a result of the many people from both who have come here to work.

“Our objective was to build contacts with arts organisations that could produce business for the group and also with folk parks and schools that would help in strengthening cultural and other relationships. The visit, for example, enabled us to identify folk traditions that link the Baltics and Northern Ireland.

“The mission was very well organised and enabled us to reach all the potential organisations that we had targeted for business and education purposes. The invitations to take part in the two international music festivals will enable us to showcase our expertise and in particular our focus on a mumming tradition that stretches back over 2,500 years. We are also following up other leads that should result in very worthwhile business for the group.

“Both Vilnius and Tallinn have very strong cultural traditions. Vilnius, for example, was the European City of Culture in 2009.”

Formed over 30 years ago, the Armagh Rhymers includes actors, musicians and storytellers. It employs around nine people both full and part time. The group has performed at the EU Charter 2011 and Walled Cities of Europe, the International Meteor and Light Pollution Conferences and also festivals such as Glastonbury and Cite de la Musique in Paris.

The group performs to a wide range of audiences from children’s and folk festivals, theatres to school and youth projects, arts and heritage sites. The main elements of the programme consist of interactive performances and workshops categorised into plays, concerts, street performances, carnivals and workshops in mumming music.