Beechworth Celtic Festival presents inaugural Tattoo

FESTIVAL FIRST: John Harvey, Narelle Forrest and Roger Humphris at Old Beechworth Gaol ahead of the Celtic weekend. Picture: MARK JESSER
FESTIVAL FIRST: John Harvey, Narelle Forrest and Roger Humphris at Old Beechworth Gaol ahead of the Celtic weekend. Picture: MARK JESSER

A large crowd, historic venue and Celtic sounds are expected to create a memorable atmosphere in the North East on Saturday.

Beechworth Celtic Festival will stage its first tattoo in the Old Beechworth Gaol, the venue for most of the festival activities this year.

Tattoo producer Chris Earl said tiered seating had been added to the gaol’s exercise yard for the 90-minute event.

“Suitably adorned with flags of Celtic nations, it’s a very unique performance space and one that will really contribute to an amazing experience,” he said.

“We know already that it’s a capacity audience, there will be about 450, 480 people.

“It’s had an amazing response.”

The City of Melbourne Highland Pipe Band, one of Australia’s oldest, will join bands from Albury-Wodonga, Wagga, Wangaratta and Watsonia RSL.

Mr Earl said The Scots School Albury Pipe Band – seasoned performers after 25 shows in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo this year – would also take part.

“I know that they will be stepping out with every bit of pride and precision,” he said.

Beechworth Celtic Festival opens with Friday night’s gala Celtic dinner at the Old Priory but attention will focus on the gaol for Saturday’s program.

Dancers and musicians will provide Celtic offerings throughout the day on two stages within the gaol.

Felix Meagher (judge) and Anthony Penhall (Ned Kelly) star in Barry Versus Kelly, a musical drama by Meagher with additional music by Lou Hesterman and Cyril Moran.

Over two performances, the drama highlights the confrontation between Ned Kelly and the judge who sentenced him, Sir Redmond Barry.

Barry, whose harsh sentencing of Ned’s mother, Ellen, to three years’ jail in 1878 sparked the Kelly outbreak, is haunted by Ned’s last words to him, “I will see you where I go”.

Balmoral Highland Dancing Society will host the Victorian Scottish Union Highland Dancing Competition at the festival for the 17th year in a row.

At Queen Victoria Park, the Rotary Club Celtic Market and Scots on the Rock music will be held from 9am to 3.30pm.

A minute’s silence on each festival stage at 11am will observe Remembrance Day while the evening tattoo will also honour the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Mr Earl said the idea for the tattoo evolved from discussions with the festival committee.

“It was to come up with something new, something different for regional Victoria,” he said. “We thought ‘OK, let’s try and make this happen’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”