Festival fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMruns down some New Year perennials

THE CRITERIA I use to qualify something as a festival are loose at best, but loose is good and in that spirit the New Year’s Day Swim at the 40 Foot is just as legitimate as the annual pig race in Bailieborough; it’s just a bit colder and involves cruelty to humans instead.

The 40 Foot in Dún Laoghaire is the setting for The Big Dip, an annual New Year’s Day swim that attracts a particular type of head-a-ball – loons such as the lady coming out of the water who told me “it’s lovely!” last year. You were fooling no one, you bloody liar. Even with the over-exposed sun-hardened skin on her like a Tunisian handbag, there is no way you could describe the water as being lovely, unless you’re half penguin, half polar bear. It was fu*$kin’ freezin’. Word!

At places like the 40 Foot, there’s often a fella with a thermometer on a rope who’ll shout things like “half a degree up from yesterday” or “17 degrees up from this time last year” letting you know that he’s sad enough to keep records of this kind of thing. The dope with the thermometer on a rope told me “it’s 8 today”, as I was shivering back to my towel. 8 what? I didn’t need his assistance, I knew exactly what temperature it was – COLD!!! Joyce had it sussed when he described a summer visit to the same spot:

“The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.”

But for all my giving out and shivering, there is something life affirming and energising about this kind of torture and that’s why you might want to consider it as a cure if you are hitting the New Year’s Eve Festival in Das Kapital.


Fireworks on Stephen’s Green, People Procession of Light, Brunch in Meeting House Square on New Year’s Day and the Countdown Concert on College Green are what NYE has to offer Liffey side. The concert features Imelda May and Bell X1. Even though the city will be mental, the streets mobbed, the pavements lined with upchuck, Imelda playing outdoors in the ol’ town is bound to be a little special. Tickets are reasonable at €20, getting them at this stage in the game might be the problem. Imelda might put your name on what must be a gargantuan guestlist.


If you feel like slotting in another festival of sorts (slap of the dodgy festival yardstick), the carnies are back in town. I’ve parachuted, bungeed and even risked going for pints at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, but spinny things that most eight- year-olds would hop onto at the drop of a hat, fill me with dread. I view Funderland as an extreme sport. I took a spin on the waltzers there last New Year’s Day and got that feeling, you know the one, when you’re so locked that the room won’t stop spinning, so you have to throw your leg out of the bed and put your foot on the floor just to make sure that the house isn’t tumbling down a hill. That’s what it felt like, and that my friend, isn’t a nice feeling.

Even though a day out at the carnival is pretty expensive (70 odd quid for a family of four), it works out a good deal cheaper to have that feeling induced by a spin on the waltzers, than by spending a fortune down the local. I got the biggest whitener since Tintin ended up on the Primal Scream tour bus with Bobby Gillespe. It’s official, I am a wus. Those hurdy gurdys were much more fun as a garsún.

So if it’s a festival and a bit of fun you’re after, Dublin is looking good for a swing, a swim and a spin. Tell the carnies they smell like cabbage and they’ll spin the waltzers extra hard.

Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland.com

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