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Irish dancer to reel back the years at Folk Festival

A dancer who performed at the original Letterkenny Folk Festival half a century ago is set be centre stage again when the celebrations are revived later this month.

Marie Bonner Cannon led the Bonner Troupe of Dancers on to the stage of the old Scala Cinema back in 1969. Now a dance teacher, Mrs Bonner Cannon will again lead her young charges when the Letterkenny Festival returns on August 22.

They will perform alongside former Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan who will lift the curtain on four days of celebrations at An Grianán Theatre.

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Some of the top live acts in the Irish music industry have been pencilled in to perform over the long weekend while there will be a distinctly international element in the form of Russian, Polish and Indian dancers.

For Marie Bonner Cannon though it will be all about Irish dancing and she will bring with her the plaque she and her young troupe won at the original folk festival for their performance of the Brian Boru Harp Dance back in August 1969.

“I organised the group and when it was dry we all practised out the back of my house at Wolfe Tone Place in Letterkenny. When it rained we went to the Literary Institute on the Lower Main Street as it was known then. Marie McGovern was one of our group members and I got her dad Hughie, God rest him, to supply the music,” Ms Bonner Cannon recalled this week.

Teams of singers and dancers from all over the world took part in the very first folk festival with performers flocking from England, France, Spain, Germany and beyond. The festival also provided a platform for a band who would go on and become superstars on a global scale – The Brennan family of Clannad fame.

Over the course of events the Bonner Troupe of Dancers performed at several locations around Letterkenny, most notably in the Market Square where hundreds of people turned out to see them. And with the festival set to return from August 22 to August 25, it is looking like another busy weekend for the new wave of young Bonner stars.

“I won’t be dancing this time,” laughed Marie Bonner Cannon. “But I will be leading the dancers out and if there are any stories anyone wants to hear, I’m happy to chat.

“I can’t wait. It is so thrilling to have the Letterkenny Folk Festival back again and to still be involved in dancing after all these years, it is very exciting.”

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