20 fun-loving festivals
Last year, Mark Graham attended 183 Irish festivals, and wrote a weekly diary of his experiences in The Irish Times. Here, he selects his 20 favourites for summer 2013
Knockanstockan, Blessington Lakes, Co Wicklow
Random Acts of Kindness Festival, Clonakilty, Co Cork
Puck Fair, Killorglin, Co Kerry. Photograph: Don MacMonagle
Galway Arts Festival. Photograph: Colm Hogan
Scarecrow Festival, Durrow Co Laois. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co Laois. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Spraoi, Waterford. Photograph: Eric Luke
My aim last year was to hit three festivals every week for 12 months, but I overshot my target a little. It coudn’t be helped: there are just so many of the damn things. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I visited towns and villages that I never knew existed and became something of an expert in the festival field.
Since completing the year-long camper-van odyssey, have I kicked the habit? Nope. Over the June bank-holiday weekend I went to seven festivals. I may be addicted.
Earlier this year I began compiling a list of Irish festivals for an app I’ve just released. I counted 721 festivals taking place in Ireland this year, and that doesn’t include all the family gatherings.
The range is staggering. History, satire, walking, film, art, scarecrows and dung all take centre stage at some wonderful weekends around the country.
Here, I’ve tried to to compile a list of the top festivals of July and August. I just about managed to whittle it down to 20. That was tough going, and I’ve left out some really good ones.
I’ve a bit of a kink in me: while the big summer sessions boasting headline acts, healing fields and gourmet burgers will always attract me like a hog to a particularly pungent truffle, the quirkier, less-publicised events float my boat too. I’m likely to be as excited about Castleconnor Cow Dung Festival in August as about any of the rock ’n’ roll extravaganzas, so you should take all my recommendations with a fist of salt. I’m easily led.
Galway Film Fleadh, Galway, July 9th-14th
This the Daddy when it comes to festivals in the flicks. It attracts international names, and though it might lack the beach-resort glamour of Cannes, a bottle of Buckfast down at Spanish Arch can be just as rewarding in the right company. . . But bring a jacket. galwayfilmfleadh.com
Street Performance World Championships,
Dublin, July 12th-14th, and Cork, July 20th-21st
Some of the best street performers from all over the world will tumble and cartwheel into Dublin and Cork to strut their stuff in parks in both our nation’s capitals (someone owes me a pint of Murphy’s for that one). And it’s nearly free. The competitors don’t get paid per performance; instead they’ll be passing around the hat after each of their turns. When you see what some of these freaks get up to, you won’t mind sticking your hand in your pocket. spwc.ie
Galway Arts Festival, Galway, July 15th-28th
Still the top-dog of arts festivals, although there are one or two pups snapping at its heels. World-class theatre and exhibitions are on offer, but book shows early. The music leaves a bit to be desired, but Grizzly Bear stands out. galwayartsfestival.com
Glasgowbury, Co Derry, July 19th-20th
This one might surprise you, and not just because it takes place near Draperstown, Co Derry. It was started by a dude whose name is Glasgow (aha!) to promote and provide a platform for independent music. It’s not just a weekend event: the crew run gigs, workshops and classes throughout the year. “Small but massive” is their motto and they live up to it. Definitely worth consideration as an add-on – or alternative – to the usual summer sessions. glasgowbury.com