Northern Ireland

Irish Game Fair future uncertain as 2024 event cancelled and organisers announce retirement

Shane’s Castle event that attracts thousands of visitors had been postponed last year

Carriage driving will be on display at the Irish Game Fair at Shane's Castle this weekend
A display at the Irish Game Fair at Shane's Castle.

The future of one of the biggest celebrations of rural life in Ireland is uncertain after the Irish Game Fair in Co Antrim was cancelled for the second year in a row.

The event, which was due to take place at Shane’s Castle in August and also features the annual Fine Food Festival, will no longer go ahead after its organisers announced they were retiring due to “personal health issues”.

No confirmation has been made for future events after plans to transfer the fair to a UK events company fell through.

The annual weekend gathering, which has previously included historical re-enactments of battles during the United Irishmen rebellion, attracts up to 20,000 visitors, and has been held at Shane’s Castle since 2000.

A reenactment of the Battle of Antrim will take place at Shane's Castle in Antrim as part of the Irish Game Fair this weekend
A reenactment of the Battle of Antrim at the Irish Game Fair.

First staged in 1979 at Co Down’s Clandeboye Estate, it moved to Shane’s Castle in the mid-80s before a short spell at Ballywalter Estate in the 1990s.

The fair is organised by the Great Game Fairs of Ireland company, which has also hosted events in the Republic.

Held with the support of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, the fair was cancelled in 2021 due to Covid restrictions, while last year’s event was postponed due to illness among the organising team.

It was confirmed this week that the 2024 fair would not take place as planned, as directors Albert Titterington and Paul Pringle announced their retirement due to “personal health issues”.

“We appreciate that this will be very disappointing for the 20,000 people who regularly attend the fair,” the pair said in a statement.

Irish Game Fair directors Paul Pringle (left) and Albert Titterington. PICTURE: GREAT GAME FAIRS OF IRELAND
Irish Game Fair directors Paul Pringle (left) and Albert Titterington. PICTURE: GREAT GAME FAIRS OF IRELAND

“Over the years, we have used the fair to not only be a flagship event for country sports and the rural way of life but also to allow us to voluntarily support many areas of country sports to the tune of no less than c£400k through direct sponsorship of clubs and events, and by means of our professionally promoted and subsidised platform for the various sporting organisations.”

They added: “We sincerely hope that a new team will come forward to take over the running of this well established event and we stand ready to give them our maximum support and assistance to keep this country sports traditional event alive”.