Suicide awareness charity P.I.P.S have benefited to the amount of £3,350 from events in this years West Armagh Community Festival that concluded on Saturday with a fun day and sporting finals. There were all the usual attractions, bouncey castles, face painting music and dance. In addition there were numerous sporting events including football, camogie, tug-o-war as well as novelty challenges. The fun day was the culmination of a weeklong programme of events. A children's summer camp ran throughout the week catering for forty children aged from 7 - 11 year olds. Also throughout the week the evening saw ladies road bowls, pub quiz, under-14 Gaelic football and ladies Gaelic football and much more.
Central to this year's festival was the 50th Anniversary of the Callan Street explosions that claimed the life of a five year old boy and injured over twenty more, mostly children. Over a twenty-four hour period from the 21st- 22nd of July 1967 there were two explosions in a disused railway tunnel. The death and injuries sparked a wave of protest at conditions in the area that had some of the worst housing conditions in the town.
To mark this anniversary the local residents group planned to erect a memorial on the spot of the explosions and to assist the festival committee devoted its sponsored 5km run and 2 km walk to raising funds for this. The run took place on Tuesday 8th and attracted several hundred runners and walkers. It became clear early on that the run/walk was attracting a considerable amount of attention and that the monies raised would surpass what was needed so it was decided to include P.I.P.S on the sponsor card. The organisers are pleased to announce that the total raised and presented to P.I.P.S is £3.350. They have thanked everyone who participated in the event form the runners to stewards and officials.
The actual unveiling of the memorial took place the following night and was attended by a large number of residents. Following it there was an exhibition and talk in the consortiums hall at Sherry's Field Sports Complex. Local historian John Nixon delivered a talk on the subject to a packed hall. Some of the survivors of the explosions gave their accounts of the accident and the effect it had on their lives. There was a very moving moment when one of the contributors realised that the child a previous speaker had recalled helping was in actual fact, herself. For fifty years neither woman had realised the identity of the other, such was the confusion and the injuries sustained by some of the victims.
The festival organisers have described this year's festival as a great success. Paying particular attention to the many volunteers, Stephen Fields from the organising committee has thanked all involved. "While the festival is now a well established community event its success is solely dependant on the support of community and of the community volunteers who give freely of their time. This year those volunteers stepped up to the plate and the success of the festival is due to their efforts."