Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

From the paper: the Trip to Tipp

The birth of the modern Irish music festival at Féile in Thurles in 1990

It was all black and white in Ireland in 1990

Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 14:13


25 years ago, the good people of Thurles were waking up and wondering what the heck just happened. It was the Tuesday after the August bank holiday week and the very first Féile had taken place in hurling’s spiritual home. Between 1990 and 1994, Féile turned Semple Stadium into a mecca for Irish music fans, with thousands turning up to see acts like Simply Red, Iggy Pop, INXS, Deacon Blue, The Prodigy, Blur, Bjork, Christy Moore, The Pogues, Something Happens, The Sawdoctors, The Stunning and, yes, Chris de Burgh. Thousands more showed up in the town and probably never got further than the square. I wrote about Féile’s 25th anniversary in the paper at the weekend and talked to broadcaster Will Leahy whose RTE Radio One documentary on the festival aired yesterday (stream below).

Féile marked the beginning of the modern Irish music festival and the end of the unregulated festival era. Leahy says in the piece that he reckons the regulated Irish festival story isn’t half as interesting as Féile and he’s probably right, as regulations and the like are only of interest to anoraks like this writer and other of a similar ilk.

However, Féile did play a pivoltal part in ushering in the “subject to licence” regime. It’s worth noting that while Féile left Thurles after the 1994 event and turned up in Cork the following year, the 1995 event was initially supposed to be held in Mondello Park in Co Kildare before m’learned friends got involved. An Irish Times’ report on U2′s problems at Lansdowne Road in 1997 notes that “the first major blow to large outdoor concert venues came in June 1995 when the High Court ruled that the staging of the Feile festival at Mondello Park, Co Kildare, would constitute “development” and required planning permission.” Since then, we’ve had a litany of court cases, objections and Irish solutions to Irish problems all the way up to last year’s Garth Brooks’ omnishambles. Anyone who believes the recent announcement about new event licensing regulations is going to change that situation should really think again.