Coleraine’s inaugural Mountsandel Festival takes place this weekend.
Organised by Coleraine Rotary Club, the two-day event, on Friday and Saturday will promote appreciation and awareness of the discoverty of Mesolithic life at Mountsandel.
Exacavations at Mountsandel by Professor Peter Woodman and a team of archaeologists in the 1970s uncovered evidence of a Mesolithic - Middle Stone Age - settlement dating back to 7,600-7900 BC, the earliest known settlement anywhere in Ireland.
The Festival weekend kicks off on Friday between 10am and 3pm when a special reception will be held at Causeway Coast and Glens Council’s Bann Gallery to launch Prof Woodman’s new book “Ireland’s First Settlers.”
The event is being sponsored by the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust and Prof Woodman will host an Antiques Flintshow where he will discuss with visitors any “finds” they may have which they felt could be important in our history. There will also be a Creative Art Exhibition from schools and community groups organised by the UU I’m Happy group.
And the mayor, councillor Michelle Knight-McQuillan will also be in atte ndance.
Then on Saturday a Mountsandel Festival Day will be held at Coleraine Town Hall between 10am and 4pm. A number of stalls will bring the Mountsandel legacy to life with a display of the food hunted and eaten by Mesolithic man in the Bann Valley.
The display will include pork (a real life pig’s head), fish (whole salmon, seabass, eels), dulce (seaweed), nuts, berries and fruits.
There will be array of Mesolithic flint artefacts on show, including blades and rough outs - unfinished tools, rocks for flint knapping - and a chance to speak to a professional archaeologist about having history on our doorstep.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to pick up some informative literature on Rotary’s Our History Starts Here campaign and the unique story the settlement occupies in our understanding of the early history of the island of Ireland.
In addition, the family-orientated festival will feature a children’s wildlife activity trail, a spear throwing contest and opportunities to dress up as Mesolithic Man...or Woman - perfect for selfies!
Led by president Liam Hickey - Rotary’s “Our History Starts Here” project aims to preserve and develop Mountsandel, the Bann Estuary and Cutts as sites of huge historical significance.
The Rotary team has already begun the development of a cross-stakeholder team to exploit and promote the Mountsandel area as a beacon for tourism and economic opportunity.
Rotary also hopes to promote and champion a Visitors Interpretative Centre in Coleraine highlighting Mountsandel’s unique place in our history, raise awareness of the Mountsandel story and campaign for UNESCO recognition of the area as a World Heritage Site. Causeway Coast and Glens Council has agreed to meet a number of stakeholders involved in this enormous project to devise a blueprint of the wider Mountsandel area. So get along to the Festival this weekend and join the fun!