Another full festival calendar brewing – hey ho, let’s go!

Mark Graham looks back as Festival Fit limbers up to get back on the road

Festival fit

Festival fit

Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 16:20

Trying to compile a comprehensive list of Irish festivals is like trying to herd a horde of hyperactive kitties in for a swim after they’ve been on a Catnip binge. This time last year I foolhardily began trying to collate the Irish festivals scheduled for 2013. After three months of trawling and trolling, the list stood at 723, and that wasn’t including any of The Gathering shenanigans. Some events got cancelled, others were announced a couple of weeks before kick-off and some never popped up on the radar as they were promoted solely within tight-knit interest groups or on select lamp-posts in particular parishes.

The difficulty of cataloguing Irish festivals was displayed perfectly by the Discover Ireland Festival Calendar. Oxegen was listed in 2012 when it didn’t go ahead and it wasn’t listed last year when it did run. It’s like trying to juggle eels!

Based on my own rooting and from talking to experts in the sector, the total number of festivals in Ireland last year was 850ish, give or take a score or two. That’s the equivalent of three festivals every week for 5½ years; that’d put yer man from Super Size Me in the ha’penny place.

This year’s festival crop was a bumper one. Not only did we have more festivals happening in the country than ever before, the surprisingly summerish summer meant that we could actually get out and enjoy the things fully.

The year ahead doesn’t show any sign of a reduction in the amount of runners in the field, although a few nags might get pulled up before the final furlong. If there is to be any notable change on the festival race-card, I’d be willing to wager that Oxegen either gets a huge overhaul, a change of venue or possibly gets pulled out of the race altogether.

There are always a few swipes and skirmishes between heavyweight rivals, but last year POD and MCD went toe to toe, slugging it out for the same set of punters with a non-camping city-based festival in the shape of Forbidden Fruit and Longitude. Is the town big enough for the two of them? Yeah, it probably is. Longitude was a-buzz with clipboard-wielding, laminate-wearing number crunchers, and I couldn’t help but feel that the choice of headliners each night sent home a happy, but sedate crowd.

Were the session statisticians gathering data for future festivals? Could it be that MCD were laying the groundwork for something a bit more raucous in Marlay Park this year? Were they on a mission to prove to planners and residents that the large crowds could be dealt with comfortably at the site? Maybe I’m just paranoid, a side effect of so many festival forays no doubt.

Festivals aren’t just for summer though – how could they be, there’s too many of the feckin’ things to bundle them all into one season. This week saw the beginning of a really good one, a rare breed of festival that has a 100 per cent altruistic agenda. First Fortnight is enjoying its third outing this and next week, and the reason d’etre of this multi-disciplinary festival is to challenge mental health prejudice through the arts.

They do this in some style, putting on some wonderful shows, gig exhibitions and happenings from now until January 11th. Check for full details – Confusion Boats, Milk and Cookie Stories and Vann Music are pencilled into my diary.

Tomorrow night rockers from around the world will gather in Vicar Street for their annual homage to the coolest Irish man to ever draw breath, the king of skinny jeans and the duke of mo & fro – Phil Lynott. Hair lines may be receding, guts extending and arthritic twinges limiting head banging activity, but if anyone tells you auld rockers can’t rip it up, Don’t Believe a Word!

Safe travels, don’t die.

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