Festival fit


Three festivals every week for a year. We force Mark Graham to choose his top 10

DO YOU THINK some parents actually do have a favourite child and they just can’t let the other ones know for fear they’ll eventually get packed off to the retirement village or, worse still, have a disgruntled offspring kick out the plug?

I’ve been asked to pick my Top 10 festivals so you can vote for your favourite. I don’t relish the prospect of rolling into a town that’s been excluded, but I think the real difficulty lies more in me having had such a buzz at so many of them.

Clonmel Junction, Spraoi, Earagail, Kilkenny, Imagine and Galway Arts Festivals all have so much going for them – and I’m not including any of them. This will not be a fair process.

You don’t have to scratch the surface too deeply to reveal an Ireland that is not afraid of a splatter of cowshite or an odd hole in a geansaí. There is a wildness and unselfconscious embracing of lunacy at some festivals that appeals to me.

Dunderry Country Fair ticks these boxes. Enjoy a heaped plate of colcannon with a fried egg on top, viewing the country’s finest cock while the band play I’m Going Home to Nobber.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival gets the nod for similar reasons. This shindig runs for a whole month: serious stamina and/or prescription drugs are a must. “Is it not just a bit hick and messy?” someone asked me last September. Exactly!

Not a huge leap to Tedfest on Inis Mór. This is a surreal journey into a serious session that will give you a pain in your face from laughing. I missed three ferries home. Nuff said.

Resembling an episode on Craggy Island, Durrow’s Scarecrow Festival is an event that’s outstanding in its own field. The populace knock out some serious lolz while promoting a sense of community; it’s hard not to get buzzed up on it.

Community spirit is something the young ladies responsible for Drop Everything on Inís Oirr managed to build from scratch. With costs almost covered through Fundit.ie, they created an intimate, unique arts festival featuring artists from Iceland and Ireland. This could be the future of festivals.Meanwhile, Clonakilty’s Random Acts of Kindness Festival simply radiated homegrown, wholesome, 24-carat positivity.

Body and Soul has also built its own community vibe and it can’t be excluded. Bigger numbers this year caused some slight growing pains, but it’s still one of the best in show, and a post-midnight ramble through the woods shows exactly where this crew excel.

It’s expensive, it’s commercial, it’s impersonal and, as much as I’d like not to include it, I can’t. Electric Picnic is a heavyweight champion. Watching children, hipsters, yummy mummies and pensioners dancing to instructions issued from a day-glo lycra’d Mr Motivator, all with huge smiles on their faces, was a festival highlight.

On the flip side, Knockanstockan provided some roots and grounding in the midst of a glut of commercial summer concerns that distracted and bamboozled while sucking the spirits and pockets dry. A much-needed kick in the arse to fight festival fatigue.

Finally, just to make myself seem a little cultured, Listowel Writers’ Week attracts the glitterati of the literati. Don’t let the vocabulary, spectacles and polo necks fool ya – they can socialise as well as they eulogise, and John B has a wave for every visitor.

There ya go, there’s my top 10. I’ve left out so many. If it were

just music beanos, Vantastival, Castlepalooza, Liss Ard, Spirit of Folk. Forbidden Fruit and Sea Sessions would be in there too. Clean sheet for next year’s naughty or nice list, I’m expecting Valentia Isle and Festival of the Fires to have full stockings. It’s worth noting, A Nation Once Again was voted the world’s top tune in a BBC online poll, so make like Jackie Healy-Rae – vote biased and vote often.


Best Festivals












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