Cork’s Indiependence music festival is small but set to grow

Annual event is still at forefront of Ireland’s boutique festival experience

It was all happening at the Kilcoran Lodge Hotel on Friday night.

Some 10km away in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, the Indiependence Music and Arts Festival had just kicked off. Local parents, taking comfort (of a kind) at the hotel bar, were wondering how on earth their little darlings were planning to negotiate the damp terrain of the festival site wearing tight hotpants and unwieldy footwear.

“I told her to bring along jeans and a pair of runners, but she looked at me as if I was insane,” said the head-shaking mother. “She’ll be sorry at three in the morning, is all I’ll say.”

Now in its sixth year at Mitchelstown's Deer Park Farm (although its roots go much further back as a low-profile music event that once hosted Danii Minogue and hip-hop act Coolio), Indiependence has more recently been at the forefront of Ireland's boutique music festival experience. It works, too, for those small towns that prefer fewer revellers (5,000 rather than up to 50,000) milling around their neighbourhood at all hours of the day and night. The small-is-better aesthetic seems preferable to the bands, as well.

Last-minute addition to the bill The Coronas (a bonus to the sold-out event, and one that the site's HMV Live stage simply couldn't contain, such was the rush from the fans to see the band perform in such a comparatively small space) were able to negotiate their way around without being set upon by a rake of rent-a-celeb types.

The atmosphere, too, was low-key in the best possible way. The size of the site helps tremendously, with any stage (or tent) being mere minutes away from its neighbour. Such proximity meant that when it rained – which it did – you weren’t pelted on for too long before taking shelter.

Read this and weep, veterans of Oxegen.

There was more than just the music; while the latter highlights all that is good and vibrant about the Irish music scene (from established acts such as Lisa O'Neill, Damien Dempsey, Delorentos and Hozier to up-and-comers such as Walking On Cars, Hudson Taylor and The Raglans), there are seriously worthwhile sidebar events. These include the Spoken Word stage, which featured poets (thought-provoking sets from John Cummins, Karl Parkinson, Carl Plover, Erin Fornoff, Colm Keegan), panel discussions and comedy; and the Hot Press stage, which featured informal interviews with a wide variety of music acts (cue a multitude of screams for Topshop-clad lads Hudson Taylor).

Indiependence looks set to surge ahead for some years. Will this neat little festival get bigger, though? Co-organiser John Finn is cautiously optimistic: "We've scaled things up year on year, whether it be site design, production or line-up, our focus is always on improvement.

“There’s no magic attendance figure in mind for us, but incremental growth has served us well, so we wouldn’t rule it out.”

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture