Indiependence: The ‘accidental’ success story of Irish festivals

A downhome atmosphere, good crowd and a quality line-up of mostly Irish acts




In 2005, Mitchelstown experienced the kind of bank holiday weekend that few small towns want or like - a very quiet three days for its shops, restaurants, takeaways and pubs. The reason for the downturn in revenue was due to the town’s annual summer festival taking a reflective break. The committee felt that something different had to be looked at so as to engage not just with residents but visitors.

Enter Mitchelstown native Shane Dunne, who, along with a compact, dedicated team of like-minded people, came up with the idea of starting a bona fide music festival. This year Indiependence celebrates its tenth birthday, and its sold-out capacity of 8,000 (3,000 up from last year) augurs very well for its continued success. Not bad going for an event that Dunne - who, when he is not knee-deep at Indiependence, is also Production Manager for The Coronas - says started off as an “accident”.

From such financially insecure beginnings - 2006’s inaugural event featured one small stage in the town square; the first couple of years lost money - Indiependence is now viewed as the Irish music festival success story of recent years. The mouse that roared? You bet.

It’s easy to see why Indiependence has flourished. Firstly, the 52-acre site at Deer Farm is small enough not to take ages to traipse around; everything is about a five minute walk from everything else, and the general demeanour of the festival goer is, well, festive. Throughout the weekend, there is no sign of the kind of behaviour that threatens to spoil the fun and games, and the Garda presence is obvious but unobtrusive.

“The trouble with me is I like to drink and sleep at the same time,” says a clearly conflicted young woman to her friend as they make their way across the main grounds, which are bordered with food stalls, coffee bars, DJ areas, mobile phone charging points, and a prize-giving Hula Hoop funfair-type booth. Musicians carrying their instruments across this same ground, to and from the various tents, testifies to the downhome atmosphere.

As for the music itself, there is a quality line-up of mostly Irish acts, a feature that Shane Dunne and his team have assiduously spent time, energy and money on over the past five years, in particular. Friday night had the likes of Jape and Basement Jaxx headlining the Main Stage. Saturday kicked off in fine form with an impressive set from Dublin rock band, Otherkin, while during the day the Village Little Stage featured impromptu performances and interviews with Irish acts Little Hours and Wyvern Lingo. The nearby Village Big Stage drew noticeably large crowds for Andrew Stanley’s curated selection of comedians.

Pride of place, however, has to go to swiftly rising Irish band, Hamsandwich, which took over Saturday’s Main Stage headline slot when original headliners, Ash, were forced to deliver a truncated set due to lead singer Tim Wheeler’s bout of severe flu.

Sunday night headliners, Kodaline, meanwhile, returned once again to Indiependence. Cue 8,000 very happy, but not necessarily shiny people singing their hearts out.