Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMbids farewell to Flatlake

NEWS FILTERED through recently that one of the most original and least commercial festivals on the calendar wasn’t going ahead this year.

Flat Lake in Co Monaghan provided a unique weekend of entertaining and engaging arts, with some rural- Border-town socialising and surrealism thrown in for good measure. I chatted to Kevin Allen when I met him at Vantastival, and at that stage they were going ahead with a one-day event; a welly- wearing premiere of his and Pat McCabe’s new film was included on the programme. But even with tickets sold and minstrels, bards and poets booked, the gig was pulled. The statement the lads issued didn’t pull its punches in its criticism of the current festival landscape. “Has commercial hedonism, with all its splendiferous canvas countercultural intent, perhaps reached saturation point?”

With Mantua and the Festival of World Cultures having also packed up their tents, there is definitely a seismic shift afoot. It’s not just the niche festivals dropping off the radar, the good ship Oxegen is in dry dock too. Years of marauding Leaving Cert students acting the maggot couldn’t knock a dent in the hull of Oxegen: all it took was one performance from Amanda Brunker and the gig did a Titanic. Fair play Mandy. The statement from the Monaghan boys portrayed a pretty bleak Orwellian/

Louiswalshian festival landscape, with soulless, pseudo-hippie happenings popping up like pretty, poisonous toadstools in fields all round the country. They have a point, but there is hope.


Drop Everything is a festival of contemporary culture that took place on Inis Oírr last weekend. The visionary women behind this shindig set up a campaign on fundit.ieand managed to raise the 12 grand to cover the costs of the gathering. This done, all the events on the island were free to attend. Provoking and engaging art exhibitions, talks, workshops, installations, sights and sounds were the staples. Sóley (left) brought ethereal Icelandic tunes to the party in Áras Éanna on Saturday night, ably abetted by Daithí with his fiddle and mobile looptastic laboratory. When the live music finished there were light shows and DJs that kept us dancing ’til dawn.

As with most festivals, it’s not just the line-up that makes the vibe, the crowd organising and attending the do are responsible for the atmosphere too. The people at this gig played a blinder. Maybe a little clique-y in places with the über-arty folk, but the overall feeling was a sense of community and inclusiveness. I may even have made a new friend.

On Saturday evening there was a pop-up restaurant where you could enjoy the most scrumptious and wholesome scran, some of the ingredients foraged from around the island. How much did the dinner cost? Leave a donation in the jar on the table.

Great folk, delightful distractions and a weekend I won’t miss when it hopefully happens again in two years. Festival Ireland isn’t with O’Leary in the grave just yet.


Swung by the Burren Slow Food Festival last weekend too. Had a morning’s seaweed foraging with the informative and enthusiastic Gerry Talty who is exporting his seaweed foodstuffs all over the world. A very enjoyable experience that just added to a savage weekend.

On foot of all this I’ve made a decision. Anytime somebody mentions austerity in my company I’m going to insist they prefix it with the word “economic”. We’re still blessed with a wealth of culture, generosity, creativity, quirkiness, talent, enthusiasm, irreverance, spirit and divilment. After an amazing weekend’s festivalling I can report we have a surplus in our GDP – Gross Domestic Positivity.

This weekend I’m playing drums with King Kong Company at Life Festival in Co Westmeath. You’d think I’d have grown out of it by now. Should provide an interesting angle though. Then it’s on to Dublin City Soul Festival on Sunday for a shot of rhythmic peace, love and unity. Uhhh, hit me!

Safe travels, don’t die.