A fortress of glitz and glam
It’s known as Ireland’s best little festival, a reputation Castlepalooza thoroughly deserves, with the laid-back atmosphere at Charleville Castle and devil-may-care attitude of punters
If ever there was a festival built for just having the craic with your mates, this is it – it doesn’t matter who plays, everyone is up for it
TULLAMORE WAS USED as a bulwark “when the city of Dublin felt threatened by the wild tribes of the west”, according to its online history. This weekend, the Offaly town’s Charleville Castle is again being besieged by wild tribes, but this crowd have swapped shields and spears for glow sticks and glitter.
Castlepalooza 2012 is just one of several bank-holiday festivals for punters to choose from, and as swifts dive-bomb the Gothic tin-soldier turrets in the late afternoon sun, the castle’s courtyard thrums to the low, subby beats of Dylan Higgins’s DJ set and some 2,500 people dance here, there and everywhere in the estate’s ancient grounds.
Castlepalooza has a reputation for being the best little festival in Ireland, and deservedly so. Strolling between its three small stages takes all of 10 minutes, and it’s not long before the compact area and cracking atmosphere make it seem like the entire audience is on first-name terms. People roam the grand hallways, ancient oaks are hung with mirror balls and everywhere there is music, talk and laughter.
The weather forecast is dire, but after a few blustery bursts, the sun breaks out and turns a damp day into a long summer’s evening. Irish festivalgoers have a grá for ignoring the elements and wearing a stubbornly optimistic array of outfits, and the audience here doesn’t disappoint. The oddest group of the festival, though, is the 30 or so glam rockers who roam the grounds, leaving a trail of big hair, glitter and feathers in their wake. They are here to celebrate a 30th birthday, and treat the crowd to a glam-rock flash mob, air-guitaring their way through Bowie and Queen numbers with rock-star pouts and poise.
One such punter is Barry du Monde, a six-foot-something colossus dressed in flowing black and gold robes, with what could only be described as a large silver crotch skull rounding off an ensemble that terrifies as many people as it entertains.
“This is my fourth time here in five years,” says du Monde. “If ever there was a festival built for just having the craic with your mates, this is it. It doesn’t matter who plays, the atmosphere is deadly, everyone is up for it. It’s like a creche for 30-somethings.
“It’s tiny, you turn off your phone when you get here because it’ll only take you five minutes to find all of your mates. Everyone loses the run of themselves completely; you can dress any way you want to.”
Also enjoying themselves, if in less dramatic get up, are Riikka and Cathal Brennan, who have left their son, Lucas, at home to come to Castlepalooza to celebrate Riikka’s 35th birthday.