Inside Ireland’s first and only gender balanced festival
The Folly marks the first Irish festival set up with the specific goal of being gender balanced
The festival takes place in Cullahill, Co Laois, on 21st and 22nd July
You may not have heard of Ireland’s newest festival, but one day, it could be remembered as the first of its kind.
The Folly is set to become Ireland’s first festival created with a specific mission to feature equal numbers of women and men on its line-up.
It is difficult to know if the festival, which takes place in Cullahill, Co Laois, on 21st and 22nd July, is the first time a festival has had an equal billing in Ireland. However, it certainly looks to be the first time a festival has been launched with a specific mission to have the same numbers of men and women.
The idea came about when the local community council was in the early stages of planning a festival for the area. It was at that point that they became aware of the conversation that was brewing – both nationally and globally – about the need for more opportunities for women in the arts.
“There was a certain amount of disquiet in the arts about inequality,” says John Scanlan, the treasurer of the local group that has planned the festival. Along with Jimmy Walsh, Marion Mahony and others, they decided to plan a festival with the specific goal of having equal numbers of male and female performers.
“We realised that there was a need for a gender balanced festival, so we decided we would have the first one,” Scanlan says. “The lead artist on the music side is a male group, The Lost Brothers, and then Sharon Mannion is the headliner for the comedy night on Saturday.”
Sharon Mannion is an Irish comedian who has appeared on RTÉ shows such as Republic of Telly and Bridget and Eamon, and is set to headline The Folly’s comedy night.
“It’s always nice to perform with other women, and I knew the festival was a new idea, so I thought it would be interesting to get involved,” she says.
Mannion says that gender balance in comedy has improved “drastically” in the 13 years she has worked as a performer, however there is still more work to be done.
“I don’t necessarily think that female comedians were suppressed intentionally or anything like that,” she says. “I think it was a numbers game. There just weren’t that many women doing it, which reinforced this idea that it was a man’s business. But that has changed, and there are loads of women doing comedy now.
“There has been this huge movement to acknowledge that women exist in the arts and that there hasn’t been equal representation. I think where I want to be ideally is where we don’t need to have quotas at all, and we can all just get along with our careers. But lack of representation has to be called out and addressed so we can make some changes.
“It’s not like women are trying to take over,” she adds. “We just need to make gender equality the norm in festivals.”