Meet your match: Lisdoonvarna goes gay
Apart from drag queens and ‘crazy performance nutters’, the Outing – an LGBT offshoot of the Co Clare match-making festival – plans to stick with tradition
When people think of Lisdoovarna match-making festival, lovelorn farmers and traditional music usually come to mind.
The festival kicks off at the end of August every year, and sets the Co Clare village alight with fun and music. This year, however, the festival kicks off in a way it never has before, with an official weekend-long lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) match-making offshoot festival, called the Outing.
Dónal Mulligan and Eddie McGuinness have organised previous events for Dublin’s LGBT community, and it’s not the first time they have blended elements of trad with gay culture. Mulligan also worked on the Poorhouse club night in Panti Bar, Dublin, a mix of contemporary and traditional Irish cultures for the gay community. They felt 2013 was the right time for a new take on Lisdoonvarna.
Mulligan emphasises that Lisdoonvarna’s traditions will still be at the core of the Outing. Entertainment will include Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh, DJ Conor Behan, a tea dance and céilí, and the drag queen Panti.
“Part of what we’re doing is to try and keep the traditional elements and just add to them. We’re not by any means coming in and wiping the whole 157 years of Lisdoonvarna history,” he said.
“The whole idea is that we’re taking elements of it that we know are going to work, so there’s céilí dancing, there’s a tea dance and all those traditional things, and then we’re heaping on top of that drag queens and crazy performance nutters from the UK. It’s not changing things too much.”
Although happily partnered and not looking for a match himself, part-time farmer John James Hickey from Tipperary will be going to the Clare town this weekend, where he will be joined by a number of his friends. Hickey (29), who is gay and currently half of “Mr August” for the Irish Farmer Calendar 2013, is “looking forward to it immensely”.
Hickey describes is as “a fantastic addition to the mid-west’s regional calendar of LGBT events. It will, of course, be followed by Limerick LGBTQ Pride the following weekend.”
More than match-making
He points out that there’s more to the festival than just finding a partner; it also appeals to people such as himself who are in relationships. “Lisdoonvarna has a long tradition with match-making over the years. However, great friendships are formed as well. I’m sure that there will be some new friendships formed and old ones reimagined.
“The west of Ireland has a wonderful way of letting you reconnect to the world and what is important in life.”