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Mayor: North West Showbands Exhibition ‘a fantastic trip down memory lane’

27 February 2018

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh has warmly welcomed the opening of a new ‘Showbands of the North West Exhibition’ at the Inner City Trust’s ‘Garden of Reflection Gallery’ on Bishop Street.

Funded by the Council’s Museum Service, the new exhibition includes photographs and memorabilia from the 1950s, 60s & 70s – the ‘golden era’ of the showbands – and will be launched on Wednesday 7th March 2018.  

On the 1st of May, the exhibition will then move to the Guildhall for this year’s Jazz Festival (3rd to 7th May) and the Alley Theatre in Strabane (8th to 13th May), before being showcased in other venues across the North West, including Donegal.

So many showbands from the North West gained national and international notoriety during the 1950s, 60s & 70s – including Clipper Carlton from Strabane, The Melody Aces from Sion Mills, and Derry’s very own Gay McIntyre and Johnny Quigley to mention but a few. 

Mayor McHugh, who has fond memories of the showband era, said: “I am really looking forward to seeing the exhibition at the Garden of Reflection Gallery full of photographs, newspaper cuttings, record sleeves and other memorabilia from the showband era.

“Whilst I fully understand that this was a ‘labour of love’ for Johnny Murray – I would nevertheless like to take this opportunity to commend him for all his time in compiling the content for this new exhibition.  He has worked closely with so many of those who were part of the golden era of North West showbands.

“I would also like to thank Helen Quigley and the Inner City Trust for launching and hosting the ‘Showbands of the North West Exhibition’ at the Garden of Reflection Gallery. 

“This exhibition will be a fantastic trip down memory lane – taking me back to a truly special time in Irish music history.  Indeed, I remember the famous Butt Hall in Ballybofey, Pallidrome Ballroom in Strabane, Orchid Ballroom in Lifford and all of the other carnival tents and marquees which held the dances.

“The dancehalls at this time were also alcohol free places – so if a girl agreed to ‘go for a mineral’ then she was agreeing to be your date for the evening! Indeed, so many people from throughout the city and district met their partners in the North West dancehalls during these years.

“I would therefore encourage as many people as possible to take a trip down memory lane and relive the golden era of the North West showbands by visiting the Garden of Reflection Gallery.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity for our younger citizens to find out more about our amazing musical heritage.”

Aeidin McCarter, Head of Culture at Derry City & Strabane District Council, said she is also delighted that the new exhibition will be a part of this year’s Jazz & Big Band Festival. She added:

“The fantastic new ‘Showbands Exhibition’ is a welcome addition to this year’s Jazz Festival – which is such a huge showcase for the city.

“Indeed, it will complement what is an amazing programme of events this year, featuring artists from all over the world and welcoming more than 60,000 revellers to the city.

   “Thousands of people will therefore have a great opportunity to visit the Guildhall and see this wonderful, eclectic mix of photographs and memorabilia!”

The ‘Showbands of the North West Exhibition’ will be launched on Wednesday 7th March 2018 at 10am in the Garden of Reflection Gallery and will be open to the public from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, up until 1st May (free admission).