Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMponders the science of happiness

SO THERE I was, more than 200 festivals under my belt, thinking I was a great fella altogether. Right up until I sat down and started to compile a comprehensive list of Irish festivals for 2013. Not quite finished yet, and I’m up to 716. That means I’d need to go to three festivals every week for three years to get to all of them, except that wouldn’t work either. The list keeps changing – it’s like trying to drive a nail with an eel. There is no getting hold of the Will-o’-the-Wisp that is the Irish festival trail. Am I to take on the role of a sessioning Sisyphus (like all my classical references, that’s gleaned from television – thanks to the high-octane energy drink people for that one), eternally doing laps of the festival circuit of Ireland? Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.

It may be more advisable to approach the en fête fields in a more Zen-like manner,though: there is no target or destination, it’s all just a journey. The Indian mystic and guru Bhagwan Shree Ranjeesh said, “The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival.” He also said, “I will confuse you.” It’s the latter that makes much more sense to me.

The reason this whole extreme festivalling caper started was as a protest of positivity. I was refused a mortgage by a couple of banks so I decided, feck them, and headed off on laps of the country in my van to stock up on some good vibrations. When I explained this to Nell McCafferty at Body and Soul last year she said, “Ah, shut the f**k up, you sound like a politician.” She made a good point, and even if she didn’t, I certainly wasn’t going to disagree with her.


A perfect opportunity to vampire some glass-half-full mentality is happening right at this very moment in Das Kapital. The Young Scientists Exhibition may not be the usual kind of shindig where I ply my pleidhchíocht, but if you are interested in foraging for some feelgood, it can’t be beaten. If you could bottle the atmosphere that the young folk bring to the RDS, Joe Duffy’d be juggling on Grafton Street and Vincent Brown’d be working in Peter Mark.

I got a taste for it a few years ago when I saw the designer of a winning entry (an energy-efficient, weatherproof stove, made from tin cans, particularly suited to third-world countries) put his designs up online copyright free. I was smitten.

Last year there was a young fella who made a double bass-drum pedal out of one pedal. He singlefootedly revolutionised death metal. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Allow yourself a good few hours and get your goof on; if you then don’t read any papers, listen to any radio, watch any television or engage with any nattering nay-bobs of negativity, you might possibly maintain your force-field of happiness for 24 hours, thus qualifying you as an exhibit for next year.


Wünderkinder of a different kind are taking to the stages of Whelans and The Village this week for Ones to Watch 2013, which began on Wednesday and finishes up tomorrow. This is the musical equivalent of avid GAA fans going to an under-21 hurling blitz. You get to enjoy all the skills without the cynicism that can exist at senior level. You also get to enjoy the experience of being out of the cold, with ample refreshments available and the use of toilets that are slightly better than those in Páirc Uí Caoimh. Throw-in is at 7pm tonight and tomorrow.

If blood-sports is your thing, there will be a shower of mentallers heading off from Dublin Castle at midnight tonight on a 55km adventure race to commemorate Art O’Neill’s escape from the prison there in 1592. Art kicked the bucket during his attempt, so for any lunatics taking part . . . Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland.com