The first Festival of Drama in Claregalway opened on Sunday 21st March 1982 at 8.30 pm. That first night’s production was given by the Demesne Players, Mountbellew with John B. Keane’s Many Young Men of Twenty.
The Festival was held in the newly constructed Leisure Centre and has been home to the Festival ever since. It appears that a few months earlier the idea of a Drama Festival had not entered any ones mind until suggested by the National Theatre Festival Directorate of the Amateur Drama League. The Centre was not much more than four walls and needed considerable work, including the construction of a stage and ancillary equipment and facilities to make it into a working theatre, capable of hosting eight nights of production. All the stops were pulled out and it was definitely a case of the show(s) must go on.
The following year Claregalway formed their own drama group. The group later became officially known as Compantás Lír and is now well established in the amateur drama circuit. This group has won many awards over the years and continues to go forward with amazing energy, creativity and enthusiasm. Indeed the history of amateur dramatics in the Claregalway area can be traced back to the early 20th century and we now see a third generation tread the boards. The drama group and the Drama Festival are intertwined with often the same dedicated people serving on both groups with interchanging roles.
The festival had its biggest challenge in 1989. That year it hosted the finals of the Confined section of the Irish Drama Festival. This entailed loosening the purse strings and putting the shoulder to the wheel. There were heavy investments, in both finance and time, into upgrading the facilities to meet this challenge. A new stage was built, as were toilets showers and dressing rooms. A three-phase power supply was installed to ensure the most up-to-date lighting and controls could be deployed on productions.
With the huge level of commitment and hard work from the Committee members over the years, along with vital support and sponsorship from the community, it is no wonder the festival develops with ever increasing standards.