Massive Eleventh Night bonfire draws visitors from around world

One of the young men who built the bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn keeps watch at the site ahead of the Eleventh Night celebrations
One of the young men who built the bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn keeps watch at the site ahead of the Eleventh Night celebrations

The organisers of one of Northern Ireland’s biggest Eleventh Night bonfires are expecting thousands of people – some who’ve travelled from overseas – to attend today’s celebrations.

The massive pyre of wooden pallets in Lisburn’s Ballymacash estate will be lit at midnight, but the party will get going a full 12 hours before that.

Standing guard at the bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn ahead of the Eleventh Night celebrations

Standing guard at the bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn ahead of the Eleventh Night celebrations

Ballymacash Cultural Awareness Project, which organises the bonfire, will be holding a family fun day in the estate from noon-3pm, followed by a Lambeg drumming display, live music and a DJ.

The group’s chairman, Stuart Thompson, is urging people of all backgrounds to come along and enjoy the festivities.

“People come from all over the world to see the bonfire. We get people from France, Australia, America, all over the place,” the 27-year-old explained.

“A couple of days ago we had people from Dublin up checking the bonfire out.

“Our event is open to everybody and there is never any trouble as we work closely with the PSNI and the fire service.

“It has to be one of the best-run bonfires anywhere in the country. It’s a great event for the whole community.”

Mr Thompson, who is following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father with his involvement in the Ballymacash bonfire, revealed that he and his fellow organisers will meet in August to discuss how things went this year and to see if there is anything they can do better in 2019.

Other major events taking place tonight include the Woodvale Festival in Belfast.

Headlining the so-called ‘ShankillFest’ event in Woodvale Park will be M People frontwoman Heather Small.

The line-up also includes other top musical acts such as Sonique and K-Klass.

Across Northern Ireland tonight, bonfires will be lit as part of the annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations.

After months of collecting pallets and building pyres, all the bonfire builders’ hard work will be reduced to piles of ashes.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has appealed to anyone organising or attending bonfires to think safety first.

“Firefighters will be attending bonfire incidents on the 11th night to protect life and property from the dangers of fire. I’m appealing to the local community for their support to ensure that firefighters are able to carry out their job without fear of attack or harassment,” said Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Walmsley.

Last year, firefighters attended 56 bonfire-related incidents across Northern Ireland over the Eleventh Night – the highest number in five years.