Northern Ireland news

Co Down pensioner Alma Brown receives honour for "long-standing dedication" to the Newry Feis

Newry woman Alma Brown has been awarded a Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers who make a change in their community
Marie Louise McConville

A CO Down pensioner has been honoured by British Prime Minister Theresa May for her "long-standing dedication" to the Newry Musical Feis.

Alma Brown, who is 93, has been announced as a recipient of Mrs May's Points of Light awards, which recognise outstanding individual volunteers and people who are making a change in their community.

Mrs Brown, who is originally from Kilkeel but lives in Newry, is the widow of Gerry Brown who managed the Down Senior football team to All-Ireland success in 1968.

She has been the driving force behind the Newry Musical Feis, which is believed to be the second largest festival of music, dance and speech in the world, for more than 50 years.

Now Feis President, Mrs Brown first got involved with the festival in 1961 based on her passion as a pianist and violinist.

She has supported the development of the festival ever since, continuing to encourage young people across Northern Ireland to participate and use performing arts as a means to build confidence and creative skills.

She gained grant support from Newry, Mourne and Down County Council to fund the festival, which includes the provision of bursaries and specialist workshops to support the development of young performers.

This year's `Feis' is taking place over 45 days, supported by over 60 volunteers, and receiving over 14,000 performance entries.

In a personal letter to Mrs Brown, the prime minister said: "The continuing success of the Newry Musical Feis is testament to your long-standing dedication to supporting your local community and enabling young people to flourish through the performing arts. I wish you every success with this year's event."

Mrs Brown said she was "pleased to receive this award not so much for myself but for all the Section Secretaries, Committee members and other volunteers without whom Newry Musical Feis would not be celebrating its 91st anniversary in 2019.

"Our festival of music, dance and speech includes performances in Irish Traditional Music and Dance, and I am delighted that it has grown to become the largest Festival of its kind in the UK with over 14,000 performances each year," she said.

"Over the years it has been gratifying to follow the successful careers of many of our talented young performers.

"One of my biggest joys was to introduce, for the first time in a festival, a performance class for children with special needs. It remains a source of great pleasure to meet people who participated in the events at the Feis, and to make contact with the many friends I have made from other Festivals throughout these islands".

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