A load of balls – plenty of auld lang syne to choose from

How should a Festival Monkey ring in the New Year? Mark Graham explores his options

‘The whole town is booked out for two weeks.” That’s something you might expect to hear if you’re seeking shelter whilst leading a pregnant virgin through the Holy Land on a donkey, or possibly if you’re stuck for a cot in Cannes during the flicks festival. It’s not something I expected to hear from an innkeeper in west Kerry at the end of December.

Other Voices took over Dingle at the beginning of this month, and for the first time in three years I decided to skip it. No doubt the sounds were wonderful, the atmosphere reverential and the socialising among the transplanted music moguls immense. But last year, while chatting to a local lad up at a counter, a seed was planted.

"Is it festivals yer after? You'd be better served coming back for the craic with Wren Boys in their straw rig-outs on Stephen's Day singing and playing tunes all 'round town. Or for New Year's, when everybody gathers below on the pier to walk in procession behind the fife and drum band up to An Droichead Beag, where we count in the New Year."

Festival Rule No 27 states: “Some of the best festival advice you will ever receive will be issued from a high stool, smelling of stout. Ignore it at your peril”.


Forgoing the hipsters holiday for Stephen's Day amongst hay-helmeted head-the-balls was always going to more my speed. And, anyway, I expect Hozier to be at more festivals in 2014 than the Order of Malta.

The popularity of a dangle in Dingle at this time of year isn’t half as surprising once you’ve immersed yourself in the unique and full-bodied festivities that daoine as Daingean Uí Chúis can drum up.

A dude in a straw suit on a hobby-horse, unsteadily marching up Dykegate Lane while playing a tin whistle, is one of nature's seldom witnessed wonders. I'm just lucky that I can rest my bones and heat my beans in the Wanderly Wagon, because there's more chance of tuning in to find a Big Tom duet with Philip King on Other Voices than there is of finding a bed in Dingle this week.

After the hi-jinx of Stephen’s Day in An Daingean, it’s going to be difficult to stay put for the more low-key New Year’s Eve buzz, especially as there’s a couple of sessions around the country capable of giving me an itchy handbrake thumb.

New Year's Eve in Limerick (stop sniggering down the back!) features The Coronas, The Strypes, Dolores O'Riordan, Maverick Sabre and Soak all getting the Limerick City of Culture bandwagon rolling. Surely it's against some child labour laws to have The Strypes playing here and in Dublin on the same night? Hozier would do well to suss out who their tour-bus driver is.

Celebrating it's third outing this year, NYE Dublin is building into a festival to be reckoned with. Getting listed as one of the Top 5 New Year's Eve destinations in the world by Lonely Planet didn't do them any harm at all. This is the final fling for the Gathering Gestapo and they'll be pulling out any of the stops that are left.

The People's Procession of Light invites punters to get a Lourdes buzz going on in the city; overhead, acrobats, twirlers and torchbearers will be keeping her lit. Madness fly in to headline the Countdown Concert, while anyone who doesn't over indulge with Suggs can enjoy the Céilí in Meeting House Square at 11am the next morning.

If you're a bit braver and need to blow out the cobwebs on New Year's Day, in Dún Laoghaire they have the opposite of Time Square's Ball Drop; at the annual New Year's Day Swim in the 40 Foot you can watch them retract. Dingle or Dublin for New Years? I'll see ya in Dick Macks for the cure.

Safe travels, don’t die.