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Appetite for new tastes sees Food Fair thrive

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Natalie McCambridge, main organiser of the Christmas Food and Wine Fair.“You try and help people get a foot in the door, and sometimes people will leave us when they get bigger. We try to stay with artisan products,” she says. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – Reporter Judy Murphy meets Natalie McCambridge, the main organiser of annual Christmas Food and Wine Fair

The McCambridge’s Christmas Food and Wine Fair, held annually to raise funds for local schools and charities, has become a fixture on the Galway calendar since it was first held 11 years ago.

The Fair, run by the well-known city shop and restaurant, showcases food from small, high-quality Irish food producers. There’s also wine and, this year, whiskey and beer.

The 2014 Fair will take place next Thursday evening, November 20, in the Salthill Hotel. It started life 11 years ago in the Ardilaun Hotel but a bigger venue was needed because of increasing numbers.

It’s an evening where people can sample food and drink from small, usually local, suppliers that is stocked in McCambridge’s. Everything from fish, pork, seaweed; granola, hummus, pesto, breads and craft beer can be tasted.

All funds raised at the Fair go to various primary and secondary schools, and to one selected charity – €15,000 was raised and donated last year. This year’s charity is Pieta House, says Natalie McCambridge, who is the main organiser of the Fair and the third generation of her family to work in the business. Organising the Fair, which will feature 40 tables, as well as cookery demonstrations, a pop-up shop, a raffle, and discounted wine orders for Christmas is all in a day’s work for this family operation, which has emerged from the recession with renewed energy.

Two years ago, during the Volvo Ocean Race, McCambridge’s, which was long-known as a grocery and delicatessen, opened a restaurant in the first floor of its Shop Street premises.

“I’ll never forget it, it was so stressful. But a lot of planning went into it,” recalls Natalie of the opening day.

The restaurant evolved from a coffee bar that the family previously had opened in the middle of the shop, with a sandwich and deli area which proved really popular, especially at lunchtime.

“We realised that’s what people wanted and started looking at upstairs for a restaurant, with the idea of having the food style we already had in the shop,” she explains.

They were fortunate to have “fresh eyes” in Luke Anthony, overall manager of McCambridge’s, whose background was in hotel management, she adds.

Opening a restaurant during a recession wasn’t easy, but McCambridge’s had a history of surviving tough times since it opened in 1925 in the early days of the Irish Free State. Natalie’s grandfather, George, had come to Galway from Cushendall, Co Antrim, after being threatened by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence. After initially working for Powell’s, up the street, he and his brother set up a grocery store. His brother moved to Dublin and started a successful business, including a bakery, while George stayed local.

McCambridge’s, with its prime location, was a Galway establishment for decades, but in a rapidly changing city, the family realised it couldn’t rest on its laurels. Their innovation has brought fresh energy to the business, partly by generating new customers for the shop, says Natalie.

“The restaurant has brought us in a lot of new footfall, people who might have seen us as a small grocery shop or deli, or who hadn’t been in here in years.”

And they have incorporated the old and new aspects of the business, so that each feeds into the other.

The restaurant’s head chef, Heather Flaherty, uses produce from the shop in the restaurant menu, which runs from day to evening – it opens until 8pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The wine list is drawn up from stock downstairs and if diners want to choose something from the shop that’s not on the list, they can do so for a €5 corkage fee – so you can get good wine at good value, says Natalie.

The restaurant was designed by Moycullen man, Steven Walton, who previously worked on Kai and Ard Bia restaurants.

The light fittings have a New York feel while the tables and chairs bring Scandinavian design to mind, and the counter is recycled Irish oak.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

The Uncertainty of History at Kinvara Courthouse

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Family Tree by Bernadette Burns, which is being shown as part of her exhibition in Kinvara. It explores events surrounding the death of her grandaunt Eileen Quinn at Kiltartan 101 years ago, during the War of Independence.

The Uncertainty of History – Remembering Eileen Quin, an exhibition that explores human transience, family history and the fragility of memory, will open in the Courthouse at Kinvara, next Friday, October 29.

The work of Galway-born artist Bernadette Burns, this multi-media show was inspired by her grandaunt Eileen Quinn who was killed by British Auxiliary troops on November 1, 1920, in Kiltartan outside Gort.

The show was originally meant to take place in Kinvara last year, on the 100th anniversary of Eileen Quinn’s death, but was postponed because of Covid.

Bernadette is a painter who works with drawing, photography, sculpture, video and book-making.

The paintings, sculpture, audio, and artist’s books in this exhibition grew from a diary entry by Bernadette’s grandmother, Tessie Burns, which referred to the shooting of her younger sister, Eileen, in 1920.

As a child, growing up in Galway City, Bernadette had known that Tessie’s younger sister had died during the War of Independence, but not the details. Finding the diary after Tessie died in 1991 and also being given Tessie’s photo album, awoke something in Bernadette who’d studied art at the then RTC and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

The First Bad Man – a book club like no other

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Andrew Bennett in Pan Pan Theatre's The First Bad Man.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

“Characters who are trying to understand and explain what is going on in the world and who never know what’s around the corner,” will be on the stage of the city’s Black Box Theatre next Tuesday and Wednesday, October 26 and 27, in The First Bad Man.

The audience will be centrally involved in the show, according to Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan Theatre, who directs The First Bad Man, which is “based on a reading of a novel by Miranda July”.

Gavin and Aedín Cosgrove established Pan Pan in 1993 to present experimental and challenging work and that’s exactly what it does. So, this production is not a straightforward adaptation of the popular 2015 novel from July, who is also a film director, screenwriter actor, and actress. When Gavin read The First Bad Man – her debut novel – he loved “its theatricality and its unusual themes and relationships”.

He was already a fan of the US artist’s work, including her 2007 short-story collection, No One Belongs Here More than You, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Gavin wrote to July seeking permission for Pan Pan to stage a show based on The First Bad Man. But it wouldn’t be an adaptation, he explained.

“What I was suggesting was more a conceptual piece, more a book club idea,” he says. July was agreeable, although the permission process took longer than it might have done for a straightforward adaptation.

As with so many other companies, Pan Pan’s plans were delayed by Covid. But the show is now coming to Galway, having received its live premiere at the Dublin Theatre Festival earlier this month.

In Pan Pan’s production, a fictional book club selects The First Bad Man as its novel of the week. However, rather than discussing it over one meeting, as is the norm, the club’s members become obsessed with it “and keep coming back to it over a year”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dark comedy that explores obsession with weddings

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Sarah-Jane Scott as Sorcha in Appropriate. PHOTO: SIMON LAZEWSKI.

Tuam actress, Sarah-Jane Scott, brings her darkly comic one-woman show, Appropriate, to Druid’s Mick Lally Theatre this Saturday, October 23, with a performance at 4pm and another at 8pm.

The play’s heroine, Sorcha, is the queen bee of her hometown, engaged to former county hurling star, Marty. She’s been dreaming about her wedding day for years, except now that it has arrived, she’s just run away from her own reception.

Sorcha isn’t sure if she’s lost her reason or if this is the first sane moment she’s had in years, but as she prepares to enter her perfectly planned life, she finally realises she has never really listened to herself.

Appropriate premiered at the2018 Dublin Fringe festival when it received a great response and was nominated for a Bewley’s Little Gem Award.  The Sunday Times critic was ‘wooed by her self-deprecating, acutely observed tale of love and loss’ that taps into ‘our insatiable obsession with weddings’ while The Irish Times praised it as ‘an engrossing debut’.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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