Midsummer Ball Poster (1968)

The Irish Georgian Socity and Friends of the National Collections Present A Midsummer Ball At Castletown

Midsummer Ball Poster (1968)

Midsummer has been a time of celebration for centuries, often associated with the lighting of bonfires. One poster from the museum archive reveals a different twist on this tradition, when revellers danced the night away to jazz, trad, and disco tunes at Castletown House on the 21st of June, 1968.

The ball was organised jointly between the Irish Georgian Society and the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland as part of fundraising efforts. At this time, the Irish Georgian Society had recently acquired Castletown, an eighteenth-century country house located in County Kildare. After extensive restoration efforts, the house became the main site for the Georgian Society’s fundraising activities, from exhibitions and lectures to dramatic performances and concerts.

The Midsummer Ball was the first of a series of annual balls that took place at Castletown House, which became increasingly popular and even attracted guests from overseas. The poster advertising this first ball boasts an array of live performances, providing insight into the local music scene at this time.

The headline act for this event involved a dramatic midnight reading from Micheál Mac Liammóir, an English-born actor and playwright who rose to prominence within Ireland’s performing arts scene. Operating under an Irish persona, he published works in both English and Irish and was a co-founder of the Gate Theatre. He appears as one of the figures on the poster, standing before a large audience.

Other Dublin-based performers featured on the programme, such as Jim Bacon’s Band. One of the many showbands operating across Ireland in the 1960s, little information remains about this group. Their performance likely included covers of popular American and British songs, with a blend of brass, electronic guitar, and electronic bass.

The Chieftains are perhaps one of the more recognisable listings, having now won six Grammy awards. Formed in 1963, the folk group was just starting to achieve greater prominence within Ireland and the United Kingdom by the time they appeared at Castletown House. They reached global fame in the years after and are now credited with popularising Irish traditional music across the world.

The final group featured is Dara Ó Lochlainn and his Jazzberry Jam Band. Jazz was becoming more popular among a wider audience in Ireland during the 1960s, especially in Dublin. The decade saw both Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong perform at the now-demolished Adelphi Cinema.

As well as being a jazzman, Dara Ó Lochlainn had a connection to the Dublin print trade. His father, Colm, founded the Three Candles Press formerly based on Fleet Street. A graphic artist himself, Dara was the one who designed this poster. His surname can be seen on the right edge of the page.

To add to this entertainment, the Midsummer Ball also included a discotheque and card room—all for the price of three guinea! While the balls have ended at Castletown House, which is now cared for by the OPW, the site remains a venue for live performances. The fundraising efforts of the Irish Georgian Society and the Friends of the National Collections also continue, although they might not involve as much dancing nowadays!

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