Support your local festival slingers

In the stampede of summer sessions, authenticity can get a kicking

Yee-ha!: Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring TD and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe TD promote the Fáilte Ireland Dublin Goes Country campaign which takes place this weekend. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Yee-ha!: Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring TD and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe TD promote the Fáilte Ireland Dublin Goes Country campaign which takes place this weekend. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins


A friend of mine doesn’t like festivals, and as you can imagine, this leads to some interesting discussions. We can both agree that as the number of festivals on the Irish calendar grows, the homogenisation and commercialisation of the landscape carnaval increases exponentially, with community and grass roots events getting choked out. Ellie feels that playing dress-up to engage in comparmentalised fun has a hollow ring to it. I try to fight the corner for festivals, but recent huge lettering in Penneys window hasn’t helped: “Life is a festival”.

Even though the Primark Summer Season 2014 tagline can be compared to the teachings of Indian mystic and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who told us “The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival”, Ellie is taking this as a score for her team. After reading the seasonal range blurb, I had to concede the point. Heading to a festival? Want an outfit that’s cool, comfy and practical? Even a guru from the banks of the Ganges couldn’t pull that one back for me.

Bouncing down south to Wexico in Wanderly Wagon last weekend to catch Riverside Jump, a rockabilly festival in Enniscorthy, I heard John Concannon, Fáilte Ireland’s director of market development, on the wireless bigging up City and Western, the stopgap festival to assuage the Croke Park stetson shenanigans. John was delighted to tell us that the people they consulted when putting the plan together weren’t the displaced concert goers and lovers of country music, nope, they had discussions with hoteliers and publicans.

I wallowed in that sinking feeling you get as all around you, opposition supporters spring to their feet, roaring on yet another net bulge. I’d been at the Waterford vs Wexford hurling qualifier the day before, I knew the feeling.

It seems like City and Western has little to do with celebrating anything other than the opportunity to hang on to some of the shillings that honky-tonkers were due to bring to town.

Keeping the economy buoyant is fair enough, people need to make a living, but ministers at photo-shoots in cowboy hats, and bails of hay strewn around Temple Bar, don’t help our growing festival authenticity deficit. When John Concannon described one of the events they’d lined up as “cool”, a little part of me died.

In fairness to John, he did mention Knockanstockan as being an alternative to the hokey hoe-down in Das Kapital this weekend, and on that front he couldn’t have been more correct.

The do on the banks of Blessington Lake is a not-for-profit festival organised by music lovers, for music lovers. On Saturday you can catch The Hot Sprockets in their natural environment, tonight Crow Black Chicken will serve up heaped spoonfuls of nourishing dirty country rock, and the Dimestore Recordings crew deal out Americana and roots all year round with the skill and squint of a saloon card sharp.

Festival organisers all over the country keep telling me that it’s becoming more and more difficult to secure dwindling funding from the national bodies that hold the purse strings, even after The Gathering was such an economic success.

This weekend consider supporting your gnarled, dedicated and devoted festival slingers at Knockanstockan, Dublin City Soul Festival, Bray’s Ukulele Hooley, Mid Summer Mango in Ballydehob, Skibbereen Arts Festival or the Phil Murphy Weekend in Carrick-on-Bannow.

Before this summer is out I’m going to try to convince Ellie to hit up one Irish festival that has heart; thankfully there’s still a bushel to choose from.

There’s no chance she’ll don the feather earrings and plastic daisy headband for the “Irish Garth Brooks Experience” in the Academy as part of City and Western this Saturday and Sunday. I probably won’t argue with her about that.

Safe travels, don’t die.

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