The Festival of Humorous Verse which has become something of a unique national treasure is now in its nineteenth year and can boast of a complete sell out for every final. The organisers have tapped into a rich seam of creativity and have in no small way reactivated a rich tradition which was so central and essential to Irish life over the centuries. At least for one night in the calendar year, patrons can escape from the many false, contrived, imported and predictable forms of entertainment and engage in an evening of true and original hilarity provided by the ordinary people. There are no celebrities, no glossy publicity stunts, just a guarantee of uproarious laughter and a magical night to relish.
Most humorous poems are uncomplicated, yet clever and underpinned by first class talents of composition and delivery. Styles of presentation vary as do the limitless themes ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the battered husband to the obsessive veterinary surgeon, from the Y factor to the mid-life crisis, from the recession to the credit crunch, from the poteen well to the surrogate father, from water problems to HRT and from wedding invitations to shopping blues. Lawyers, lorry drivers, doctors, dancers, plumbers, plasterers, teachers, typists, care assistants, couriers, farmers, foresters, surveyors and sailors among others have all thrown caution to the wind and have become established yarn spinners and bards.
Dormant in the subconscious mind is a craving to compose and recite. Something miniscule, fleeting and irrelevant could activate this. The product could be a lasting manifestation of one’s inner self. It is powerful and uplifting to have an ode in the memory bank, as the call to recite can happen in the very strangest circumstances and can have a profound and transforming effect on many. One should always be ready!
People travel from every corner of Ireland and from abroad to savour this unique cultural event and rare sense of occasion. New themes, new accents, new styles abound as the performers on the final night attempt to generate tornadoes of laughter. To be champion of humorous verse is the burning aspiration. The finalists will have crafted and fine-tuned their compositions, polished the vowels, sharpened the consonants, perfected the pace, balanced the pitch, steeped the tones in honey and lubricated the vocal juices in order to mesmerise the 1000 strong audience. Laughter is the universal bond that draws all people together and the Armagh City Hotel pulsates and palpitates as the great band of bard patrons sup the glass of exhilaration and edification.
From small beginnings in the town of Keady almost 20 years ago the Bard of Armagh Festival of Humorous Verse attracts patrons from all over Ireland and abroad to take part in the event. On the final night which is normally the second Friday in November the selected finalists perform to the huge audience and team of judges to find out who will be the winner and secure the coveted title, Bard of Armagh. Prizes of £3000 are shared among all the finalists with everyone gaining a monetary award.
New Bards are emerging each year to challenge the hardy annuals like Jimmy Rafferty, Liam McNally and Henry McGrath who have taken eight of the last ten titles between them. But in 2012 a new crop of bards entered the fray with the winner and runner-up, Sean McCormack from Meath and Rob Barratt from Cornwall both appearing for the first time. Both spoke in superlatives about the quality of the event and the tremendous satisfaction they gained from performing in front of 1000 people who hung on to every word, every move and journeyed with the story from beginning to end.
The Bard of Armagh Competition 2013 has prizes of £3000
The poem should be no more than 650 words and should not exceed 9 minutes performance time.
The poem must be the original work of the entrant. It should be humorous verse, suitable for family audiences and radio broadcast.
Each entry should be type written in English. It should have a detachable cover page stating clearly the entrant’s name, address, telephone number and the title of the poem.
CD/Tape recorded entries are also encouraged.
There will be an entry fee of £2.00 for each poem.
Entries should be sent to:
Mr John Makem, 34 Fergort Rd, Derrynoose, Co Armagh, N. Ireland. BT60 3DN
Final closing date for entries is 1st October and competitors will be contacted by mid-October.
Finals will take place in the Armagh City Hotel on Friday 22 November 2013.
Tickets for the event will go on sale early September.
Information about the Bard of Armagh Festival of Humorous Verse can be found on the website www.bardofarmagh.com.