Today I visited the 2010 Northern Ireland International Airshow in Portrush and the Broadisland Gathering at Ballycarry.
Back in February it seemed that the airshow would be cancelled as Coleraine Borough Council was no longer able to provide funding but subsequently a group of traders, represented by Coleraine Borough Chamber of Commerce, stepped up to the mark. They raised more than £50,000 and the event was reinstated with a revised budget.
I was delighted that the people of Coleraine felt so strongly about the airshow that they were prepared to raise the money to keep the event going. A special word of thanks is due to all the sponsors, especially the lead sponsor, Tesco, and congratulations are also due to the organisers, Coleraine Borough Council, who introduced more quality acts into the 2010 programme.
Later I travelled to Ballycarry for the 18th Annual Broadisland Gathering, which is the longest established Ulster-Scots festival in Northern Ireland. This year the parade through the village included the Mid-Argll Pipe Band from Scotland, the Clontibret Pipe Band from Eire and the Schomberg Society from Kilkeel. Along with local bands they provided excellent music which was enjoyed by everyone there.
The main street was closed off for the afternoon and the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society put on a fine display of country dancing. Under severe pressure from Lucy Mulholland I joined them for one of the country dances, along with a number of other visitors, including several children. It was all good family fun but I determined to stick to politics and leave dancing to those who know how to do it.
Risin Stour and Session Beat provided some excellent music in one of the marquees. This was the first time I had heard Session Beat and they show great potential. It is encouraging that we have more and more Ulster-Scots musical groups coming through to perform at festivals and concerts.
I always enjoy a visit to Ballycarry to meet with old friends such as David Hume and Rev John Nelson - both David and John have been involved in Ulster-Scots culture for many years - and to walk round and chat with people in the crowd. Chris Spurr and Wilson Burgess were there from A Kist o Wurds and they a short interview for the programme, which is broadcast on Radio Ulster.
This evening there is a concert in Ballycarry and the programme includes the Mid-Argyll Pipe Band and the Young Choir of Dalriada. The Broadisland Gathering is always on the first Saturday in September - so put it in your diary for next year.