A Viking invasion in Wicklow and a Nazi blitz in Wexford

It was swords and axes at Wicklow Arts Festival, and machine-guns at the Military festival in Duncannon, but the most lethal weapon of the weekend was little Kevin’s stick

 

‘Kevin. Stop annoying the Vikings,” a mother chastised her son last Sunday morning at Wicklow Arts Festival, as hairy marauders rubbed sleep from their eyes and readied themselves for a day of sideshow swashbuckling. The Vikings were emerging from fur-lined tents that formed an impromptu village down on the banks of the Vartry in “Bac na Soar” (that’s Wicklow town to you and me). They weren’t quite “on duty” just yet, but this didn’t stop little Kevin poking them with a stick, looking for a fight. Kevin felt his mother’s admonishment was unjust and misplaced. “They started it!” said the young fella, with as firm a grasp on history as he had on that stick.

Sometimes it’s the little quirks encountered at festivals that make a lasting impression. A short film festival in Schull seems relatively straightforward until you consider that, in this painfully picturesque West Cork hamlet, they have no cinema. “Our village is our screen,” they’ll happily tell you. Buildings all over town become pop-up picture palaces. There are off-shore screenings of short films out on Long Island, events that invite you to have a little lie-down while the short films happen above your head and the whole village becomes connected by what seems like a very sophisticated wi-fi network for remote West Cork, allowing you to watch the films anywhere in Schull on your technological weapon of choice.

The director Jim Sheridan was blown away this year – not by the incredibly friendly atmosphere, the standard of shorts in the competition, or the village itself, but because the organisers arranged for him to become a temporary member of the Schull Community Inshore Rescue Service team and he was brought out for training in the lifeboat.

DUNCANNON BALL
These little quirks become screaming kinks this bank-holiday weekend, when the intensity of our sessions gets cranked up another notch as peak festivalling season approaches. The level of real-life Father Tedness out on the trail this weekend is epic. The seaside village of Duncannon, Co Wexford will be invaded by a host of troops for the Duncannon Fort Military Re-enactment and Vehicle Show. There will be soldiers of all descriptions, but expect a large detachment of Nazis, a sight I always find amusing in the scenic seaside town. The comic value of their presence is enhanced if you manage to engage one in conversation about the pros and cons of Galway’s inclusion in the Leinster Hurling Championship. It makes for an interesting weekend.

Another event that wouldn’t seem out of place on Craggy Island is the Foynes Irish Coffee Festival (the town lays claim to having been home to the first-ever Irish Coffee). Not only will the Powers Irish Coffee-Making Championships be held in a flying boat museum, the semi-final of the Birney Madigan Memorial Cup will be held on Friday night, there will be a Clowns and Robots fancy dress party, and on hand to sing about the DTs will be Christy Moore impersonator Liam Byrne. I just hope to God that Sunday night’s fireworks technician isn’t on the whiskey too.

The big bashes this weekend are Forbidden Fruit in Dublin’s Kilmainham, Cat Laughs in Kilkenny, Bloom in the Phoenix Park, Listowel Writers’ Week, The Rory Gallagher Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon and the Innishannon Steam & Vintage Rally in Co Cork. It’ll be difficult to limit myself to three.

This night last week was spent outside Schull, by a bonfire on a beach near Goleen, watching a meteor shower streak white overhead, while Fastnet Lighthouse strobed bright on the horizon. The company was good, the beer stayed cold and it just went to show that sometimes it’s your own fringe events that make a weekend memorable. Wherever you go and whatever you get up to this Whit Weekend, make like young Kevin and give it some stick.

Safe travels, don’t die.

ayearoffestivalsinireland.com

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