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Get ready for the magic of Sunflowerfest

Vanessa Magowan.

Vanessa Magowan.

WITH Sunflowerfest set to get underway outside Hillsborough today (Friday), organisers are promising a 'magical' weekend for those who attend.

Vanessa Magowan and her husband Michael will hold their third Sunflowerfest the local equivalent of Glastonbury or the Electric Picnic - a  Tubby's Farm near the village from Friday until Sunday.

What began as a side-line event at the Oyster Festival to raise funds for their son's trip to South America has grown into a weekend dedicated to music and the arts, which attracts families and welcomes children with open arms.

Vanessa explained: "Three years ago we held a fundraising music event for our son to go to Chile for community work, which coincided with the Oyster Festival. We got a few bands, raised a little bit of money and the bands were appreciative of the platform to play on, so it triggered something. We have a beautiful farm, where we used to grow raspberries and sunflowers, and so Sunflowerfest began.

"We are the only three day music and arts camping festival in Northern Ireland. It's a small, intimate site, on a beautiful farm and we want to share our farm."

The festival still raises funds for charity and this year they will be donating £2 of every weekend ticket price to support the work that Oxfam is doing in Haiti, as well as supporting other Oxfam causes.

With a variety of different stages offering everything from rock 'n' roll to acoustic or bluegrass, as well as a dedicated 'Kidz Zone' or a place to pamper yourself with complementary therapies or yoga sessions, Sunflowerfest has something to suit everyone, from young children to teens, their parents or even grandparents.

Get ready for the magic of Sunflowerfest.

Get ready for the magic of Sunflowerfest.

"We try to cater to all tastes and genres, said Vanessa. "We have poetry and arts, where we'll have some of the best Northern Irish poets, artists and wordsmiths. We offer attractions for the kids and families, with a circus workshop, a dance workshop, yoga for kids, and all but three of these, clay modelling, facepainting and hair braiding, are free. We have got a pop up Narnia, which is an enchanted glade of mystery and surprises. We have a team of professional actors and acrobats and have created a wardrobe you walk through to a land where_ the White Witch has frozen everything. Its just a bit of magic, we wanted to broaden the appeal."

Vanessa added; "I personally love kids at music festivals because I think they soften it a bit and we have found families all coming back. We have a dedicated family camping area, a dedicated teenage camping area, which is alcohol free, child protection officials.

"One of my personal favourite areas is Sunflower Bliss offering complementary therapies, feminine empowerment workshops and yoga," Vanessa commented.

This year Vanessa and Michael are expecting 5,000 people to attend Sunflowerfest, with the festival growing in number each year. Most of the funding for the event is provided by the couple, with Lisburn City Council and NI Tourist Board having given their support to the festival this year.

With food stalls, cocktail bars and arts & crafts on sale, the festival, which this year is in keeping with the 'Giants of Northern Ireland, has something for everyone.

Volunteers are still being sought to help out. Vanessa explained: "We need as many volunteers as we can get. Even at this late stage we are always looking for volunteers. We couldn't do it without them and they get to be part of the festival, with access to all of the venues, their camping provided, food vouchers and travel expenses."

Vanessa added; "Sunflowerfest seems to have tapped something in people, people have really embraced it. It is much more than just a festival, it is bringing magic to people. It seems to encourage really good behaviour and people respect the countryside. If we get the weather - which we will - it will be magical."

Ticket prices cost £20 for Friday and £25 per day for Saturday & Sunday. Weekend tickets + Camping priced at £49 are available now from HMV Belfast and Lisburn Stores and at The Belfast Welcome Centre. For further information on volunteering visit

Ulster Star