No talk, just tea, pints and a lovely horse at the annual gathering for 'Father Ted'
Go on: Geraldine Hobbs and Jackie Rountree at Tedfest. photographs: hany marzouk
Go on: Sarah Batson and Brendan Fitzgerald at Tedfest. photographs: hany marzouk
Inis Mór was rechristened Craggy Island last weekend for the seventh annual Tedfest, a fan convention that defies convention
Many fans pay homage to their favourite show or comic by attending conferences filled with speeches and seminars. Fans of Father Ted have a different idea. Every year more than 300 Ted fans descend on Inis Mór dressed as priests, bishops and nuns, to celebrate the television show created by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews. They have no interest in listening to long speeches, preferring to sit in a marquee with a pint, singing My Lovely Horse.
Most locals are delighted to see the fans descend on their island. Inis Mór has a population of just over 900 and is suffering economically. The island once focused on fishing but now relies heavily on tourism. Last weekend, all BBs, guest houses and hostels were fully booked by Ted fans from around the world who had flocked to Inis Mór, recrhistened Craggy Island for the weekend.
PJ O’Flaherty, comanager of Tí Joe Watty’s and one of the island’s biggest employers, says the locals have mostly embraced the festival.
“It’s very quiet here in the winter; then the summer for us is quite busy. Tedfest for us is the symbol that it’s starting again. There would be few who don’t like it. It’s good for the community, and it’s good for employment.”
John Bottrell from Perth had been planning a trip to Ireland with his wife for many years. When she passed away, three years ago, Bottrell shelved any travel plans, but he changed his mind after hearing about Tedfest. “This is my pilgrimage. It has been absolutely worth it,” he says.
Geraldine Hobbs is a Tedfest regular, having attended for the past four years. “It’s the craic and the people I’ve met over the years that keep me coming back. It’s like taking part in a live episode of Father Ted. It’s a great buzz,” she says. “If you’re not cracked, you may as well not come. The minute you get off the boat and put your foot on the ground, you turn into a lunatic.”
Some fans go to great lengths to create elaborate costumes. For the King of the Sheep competition, Therese and Mick Murphy from Dublin used the hair from about 15 white dogs to create their costumes.
The words “recession”, “promissory notes” and “bailout” were temporarily removed from the revellers’ lexicon for the weekend. It may as well have been 1995, the year the show first aired.
For one of the festival’s organisers, this time of year has a very special meaning. Rob Morgan, the son of the Father Ted actor Dermot Morgan, has been taking part in Tedfest since it began, in 2007. Dermot died in February 1998, 24 hours after filming his last episode of Father Ted.
“I’d much rather spend Dermot’s anniversary amongst people who are celebrating his memory and having fun than sitting at home crying about it or being upset about it,” says Morgan. “That’s not what Dermot would want and that’s not what I want. I know everyone has their own way of grieving and marking the passing of a loved one. This is my way of doing it, and it’s definitely a way of keeping me happy when the chips are down.”
Rob Morgan’s attendance at the festival is one of only a few links between the show and the festival. Dermot Morgan’s costars Frank Kelly, Ardal O’Hanlon and Pauline McLynn have frequently said they want to move on from Father Ted.
This year’s festival was visited by the comedian and actor Joe “Fr Damo” Rooney. The festival’s head organiser, Peter Phillips, says it is perfectly acceptable that some actors no longer want to be solely associated with their character.
“The premise of Tedfest was always that it would be the opposite of a TV convention. We never wanted to be the sort of thing you see in a nice hotel, watching the reruns and having autographs signed. It was more about Craggy Island than Fr Ted, so we created the full Craggy Island experience.
“I’ve always said it’s a collective insanity. People want to fight their way out to the Aran Islands in pretty cold weather. Then when they get there, there’s a collective sense of adventure.”
You can watch a video of Tedfest on irishtimes.com