THE people of Nenagh could have ben forgiven for thinking their town had been turned into Carrigstown last weekend when some of the stars of Fair City were seen around. However, Bryan Murray (Bob Charles), Una Crawford-O’Brien (Renee Phelan) and Tony Tormey (Paul Brennan) were there to take part in the inaugural Nenagh Silent Film Festial, which celebrated Hollywood’s silent era and the work of local pioneering director Rex Ingram, the man credited it with discovering Rudolp Valentino. Ingram spent just under two years living in Cudville, where his father was a rector.
Bryan and Una were loving their time in the town, and Bryan revealed to the Tipperary Star that he had Tipperary roots as his grandfather was born in Cahir.
“His parents just happened to be there when the baby was born,” he told the Star.
He has been a regular visitor to Tipperary and lamented the fact that North and South Tipperary are to be merged after the next local elections.
“Will we have no more North Riding and South Riding? Does this mean we will no longer have all those TN and TS car registrations?” he asked. “It’s a shame.”
Bryan and Una attended the festival’s Masked Ball in the Abbey Court Hotel, where the theme was definitely black and white – even the food matched – and Bryan said he and his Fair City co-star were “delighted to come down to support Nenagh Silent Film Festival. I am sure it is going to be a big success.”
The actor, who has starred in countless TV programmes from Strumpet City to Brookside and Perfect Scoundrels, described the turnout at the ball as “absolutely wonderful” and said there was a great atmosphere in the town.
“I hope it’s going to a regular yearly thing and it will bring people into the town,” he said. “There is a certain romanticism and magic about silent films and I think the people in the surrounding areas will embrace that and come again as much as they did this year. I wish it every success and hope we will back down again very soon.”
He agreed that The Artist had “put silent movies back on track again and people can appreciate them for what they are”.
He further agreed that silent movies “strips it all to the love of actually telling a story in motion pictures in a human way. And it interests people in a human way as well.”
And he encouraged the festival committee to look at commissioning more soundtracks for silent films following the world premiere of Eoin Mac Ionmhain’s score that accompanied a screening of Rex Ingram’s The Magician.
“I think the soundtrack we had for The Magician really added to the sense of the quality of Rex Ingram’s film. I thought it was just wonderful. He added a whole new layer to it. I would encourage young musicians to write soundtracks and to offer them in to the festival committee and say: ‘I have looked at this silent movie and I have written this’.”
Bryan was also delighted to see so many people wearing their masks at the ball, entering into the whole spirit of the occasion.
“But that’s what you’d expect from Nenagh, I suppose,” he said. “I can see the festival really taking off and it’s great to celebrate the fact that a man such as Rex Ingram lived in this area.”
Ms Crawford-O’Brien also revealed that she was looking forward to coming back and congratulated everyone involved in the festival.
The festival was a huge success, according to chairman Charlie McGee. “We knew we had an entertaining line-up, but the massive support from local people and businesses took us aback. From the first moment of the parade, people came out to cheer the vintage cars and the performers, and they continued to give us their backing throughout the whole weekend.”
Festival highlights included silent films Nosferatu and The Magician, as well as a moving scrapbook of footage from Nenagh’s past. Children were a big focus of the event, with a hilarious Battle of the Clowns, several circus performances, and enough free sweets to give any dentist nightmares, he said.
Many of the films in the festival were accompanied by live music. Particular highlights came from the renowned multi-instrumentalists of 3epkano, and from the composer Eoin Mac Ionmhain. Eoin gave a world premiere of his new score for Rex Ingram’s 1926 masterpiece The Magician. The score was especially commissioned by the Silent Film Festival to celebrate local man Ingram’s legendary Hollywood career.
Ingram was also commemorated with the unveiling of a granite plaque at his childhood home in Cudville. Minister of State Alan Kelly spoke of the great efforts of the committee, and the co-operative spirit of the people of Nenagh which had made the festival such a resounding success.
Local historian Kevin Whelan gave an enthralling rundown of Ingram’s life and career. Festival patron Tony Tormey of RTE spoke of the hope that the young people of Nenagh might follow in Ingram’s footsteps.
“We can all see the talent that Nenagh has to offer,” he said. “I know the Silent Film Festival will provide an outlet for that talent, and I hope to see you all again next year with your own short films.”
The ceremony was also attended by Mayor and committee member Lalor McGee, Labour councillor Virginia O’Dowd and by Sinn Fein councillor Seamie Morris.
Chairman Charlie McGee is eloquent about the depth of support for the festival.
“Deputy Kelly has been with us from the very start. But we’ve had brilliant encouragement from every single party in the town, and support from Sarah Fleming at LEADER Partnership, from Failte Ireland, Discover Ireland, from Melanie Scott at North Tipperary Arts Office, and from all our generous sponsors. We also couldn’t have done it without the likes of the Abbey Court Hotel, O2, and our media sponsors Tipp FM,” said Charlie.
Festival organiser Liam Gleeson said: “This is an annual event. If we all pull together we can really put Nenagh on the movie map.
“We want to take this successful event to the next level, but to do this we need support from the local community, so we are calling on everyone with an interest to come along to the meetings we have planned throughout the year, to join us and help us build this exciting event to be something we can all be very proud of.”
The Festival was attended by just under 3,000 people from all around the country, including the great-niece of Rex Ingram himself.