Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMmaximises his pillaging potential

MANY OF OUR festivals in a field espouse some sort of hippy-esque ethos. Sourcing energy from the gaseous exchange of herds of free-range llama or the pedal power of a clatter of cycling chimps rescued from nefarious test facilities that make performance-enhancing substances for Le Tour amphetamine fiends.

You’ll see Tibetan prayer flags, hear talk of a percentage of proceeds being donated to battered badger sanctuaries and possibly be harangued to sign petitions to shorten the Co Galway townland name of Letterfrack to Letter (a campaign known as “Get the Frack outta here”).

With most of these seemingly socially conscious shindigs, you only have to scratch the surface a little bit to find that profit margins and PR consultants are a huge driving force behind the whole thing, and most of the kaftans and gawdy geansaís on show only get worn with wellies once a year. Are there any festivals out there that offer as much in lentils as they do in lolz and can nourish your soul whilst not trying to pick your pocket? Step forward Spirit of Folk Festival.

When Dunderry Park isn’t flinging it’s gates open to folkies, the grounds and impressive Georgian manor operate as a holistic centre that focuses on shamanic studies. No surprise that when the offspring of the Fear an Tí got the go ahead to organise a festival, the day-to-day operations of the place would be reflected in the shenanigans at the shindig.

There are shamanic and druidic ceremonies mixed with spirituality workshops, all off-set nicely by Vikings telling you how to maximise you pillaging potential with your weapon of choice. You’re as likely to see a bicycle joust as you are to hear a banjo. I needn’t have worried about trying to hide cans about my person as you can bring in as much drink as you want. Judged solely on my festival litmus test of dreadlock- and-dog quotient, this gig was doing well. The atmosphere in Dunderry is more chilled than Walt Disney’s head. An auld fella emptying his colostomy bag onto a sceach late on Saturday was a good example of the wide range of age groups in the field. Maybe not a good example in general though.


All-comers were invited to try to strike a sliotar into the jaws of a large wooden beast-hound. Tough ask. No one got close until the bowld Micky McHugh wielded the hurl like Setanta and whipped the ball down the gadhar’s gullet. Being in the midst of a crowd chanting for Micky seemed to be pitched just at my level (regular readers might go into shock if there wasn’t some tawdry entendre included). No doubt there will be similar scenes when I head to Lisdoonvarna this weekend.


The Bonnymen won me over with top choons and a nice slice of Tom Waits on the uilleann pipes. A girl sang sean nós in a pair of kinky butaisí. Lynch knocked out some bangin’ balads in the woods. It could have been Rick Danko’s son flaking away on the bazouki when The Cujo Family were horsing into harmonies that were tighter than a yeoman’s bowstring. There were unexpected gymnastics and robot dancing on the dance floor while Hunter S Thompson looked on approvingly from where his visage had been etched into a piece of wood. The epitome of multi-tasking breastfed and put together a rollie without casting her eye over either child or tobacco.

I walked through the campsite and heard someone playing The Marino Waltz by a fire and thought the mood couldn’t have been captured any better; that was until I met the drunk buzzer who wasn’t used to knocking around in the company of so many new-agers and folkies. “Bastards!” he said, without malice. “The crowd here are so nice, I’m going around with a pocket full of fag-butts.”

Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland.com