Campa Mhacha is over for another year and the unanimous verdict is that the Camp once more exceeded all expectations and surpassed previous years in terms of numbers participating and the range and professionalism of activities and excursions on offer. Armagh City’s only Irish language summer camp attracted over 150 children and introduced many families and children to the rich Gaelic cultural heritage of this island in a relaxed and educational environment. The promotional literature for 2012 promised a bigger, better camp than ever before and those parents and children who were fortunate enough to gain a place on the Camp confirmed that the overall experience was unique and memorable. Local Irish language development group CAIRDE Teo organised this year’s summer camp, which attracted children from both Irish medium and English medium primary schools in Armagh.
The Camp kicked off on Monday 2 July for children from Rang 1 to Rang 3 and from Primary 1 to Primary 3 who attended music, song and folklore workshops with the Armagh Rhymers in the mystical surroundings of Eamhain Mhacha (Navan Fort). The fort echoed and resounded with the language and culture of the Gael, as indeed it has done many times throughout its ancient history. Trips to Belfast Zoo and Tannaghmore Gardens supplemented the range of arts and crafts, sports, music, film and drama activities organised back at the Camp’s headquarters at Sherry’s Field. All Camp activities were very much focussed on the Irish language, the Gaelic culture and their relationship with the world around us.
On day four of Camp, Kinnego Harbour provided two boats for a memorable trip from Maghery to Coney Island on Lough Neagh where the children were regaled with myths, legends and facts about this special place which holds such enormous significance for the Gaels of Ulster. Armagh GAA also weighed in and facilitated the first ever bilingual tour of the Morgan Athletic Grounds for a group of 40 children.
Zimbabwean Irish speaker and regular visitor to Armagh, Tura Arutura, descended on Armagh Harps Social Club during the week and enthralled the children with his unique mix of Irish sean nós, hip hop and urban dance. Many parents have reported incidences of impromptu African and Gaelic dance moves on kitchen floors in homesteads throughout Armagh ever since.
Week 2 proved equally as busy and catered for children from Rang 4 to Rang 7 and Primary 4 to Primary 7. Tura Arutura was back in the Harps social club to work his magic with the older children and was once again rapturously received. A second Irish language tour of Coney Island revealed the history of the island from St Patrick’s visit to the Norman invasion and the link with the great O’Neill clan of Ulster. A visit to Eamhain Mhacha kept everyone entertained and a film club was organised in St Patrick’s Trian.
Children attending the second week of Camp had a fantastic experience at Croke Park in Dublin where they received a bilingual tour of the stadium and museum. In addition to informal Irish language lessons, there were plenty of activities on offer at the Cathedral Road Complex throughout both weeks.
Campa Mhacha 2012 was rounded off with a visit to the Cathedral City’s number one Irish language attraction for children – Armagh Planetarium, where the children enjoyed an Irish language show and made their own rockets before successfully launching them into ‘deep space’.
A family fun day with barbeque, bouncy castles, slides, rodeo bull and other inflatable attractions at Sherry’s Field brought together all the children who attended Camp with teachers, leaders, parents and extended families in a spirit of celebration and community.
CAIRDE Teo would like to thank the teachers, leaders, artists, musicians and all the individuals who contributed to such a successful summer camp in 2012. CAIRDE Teo would also like to thank our funders in Armagh Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership, Foras na Gaeilge and the Youth Service of the Southern Education and Library Board, who helped to ensure this year’s Campa Mhacha was the most successful ever. Organisers also extend their gratitude to Armagh Planetarium, Morgan Athletic Grounds, Armagh Harps Club, Croke Park, Kinnego Harbour, Belfast Zoo, Eamhain Mhacha, St Patrick’s Trian, The Charlemont Hotel, West Armagh Consortium and the Cathredal Road Recreation Complex for their generous help and assistance.