Festival Fit


I’D LOVE TO tell y’all that I’m ripping it up at every festival, throwing myself headlong into the wanton debauchery of every hooley, spinning round in a whirlwind of reckless fecklessness. I’m not. I can’t. It’s not just a case of burning the candle at both ends, I’ve taken a blowtorch to the middle of it at times too. After seven festivals over the June Bank Holiday weekend, I needed to strike some balance. Enough rock‘n’roll, I needed a shot of culture – and a bottle of Yop wasn’t going to cut it.


The VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art provided the first feedbag of culture. Artist Brian Duggan has created a replica of a barn from the 1890s Wyoming story depicted in the film Heaven’s Gate. Not just a barn, it’s also a performance space and roller rink. Visitors are encouraged to dress in provided period costumes and become part of this exhibition, getting a feel for the atmosphere. The light in the space makes it moody and atmospheric, like being in a sepia photograph.

I did display a little reticence to boot up. I have memories of being at the local roller disco in the 1980s and witnessing first-hand the carnage on the floor when skaters took Van Halen’s Jump literally. Rainbow-coloured boot-skate wheels caught in teenage girls’ braces and blood-stained leg-warmers – not pretty. Turns out that rollerskating around a barn in fancy dress is as much fun as it sounds. The artistic and cinematic relevance does add depth to the experience, but if you’ve never seen the Michael Cimino film, think Back to the Future III crossed with Xanadu. Got it? Go knock yourself out. Éigse runs until Sunday and Duggan’s Everything can be done, in principle (that is, the barn) keeps rolling until the end of August, along with three other exhibitions that are definitely worth a look-see. All four exhibitions are free to attend so get your skates on!


Lisnavagh House was basking in the sunshine on Saturday and the history buffs were out in force for Ireland’s first history festival. Marquees, tea and scones, pie and mash and the assembled glitterati of historical litterati mingled on the lawn. Diarmaid Ferriter supped a beer at the bar, David Norris strolled the grounds, Kevin Myers chewed the historical fat with Joshua Levine under an ancient beech and Manchán Magan and Ruth Dudley-Edwards swapped pleasantries. I felt like Donncha Ó Dúlaing at a Pantera gig. Tom Cruise captaining Verne’s Nautilus would have been less out of his depth. I started to get into it at the “Virtuous Villains – Five People who Put the Hiss into History” talk. Speakers introduced villains from Irish history and we confirmed their villainy with a thumbs up or down, in true Roman style. Trust me to find Lisnavagh’s X Factor. Highlight of my day was a heated discussion as to whether or not Cromwell was a horrible prick. Even I know the answer to that.


Took a spin south that night for the Immrama Travel Writing Festival in Lismore to hear Tony Wheeler (founder of Lonely Planet) regale the audience with stories from his latest book, detailing his travels across countries the American government included under the illustrious heading “Axis of Evil”. Tony seemed to have a great time in these places. I was surprised he didn’t include Tuam – it might make it into the second edition. Surprise shout for some ska with The Specials in The Marquee Cork on Monday night. Storming gig.


Taste food extravaganza, Bloomsday and Dalkey Book Festival in Das Kapital. Tonight I’ll be lining out at the Play Tag Rugby Festival in Carlow, making such an exhibition of myself that I may get included on the Éigse programme.

Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland. com