Laugh’s a beach!
SKERRIES TOURISM CHAIRMAN TERRY MCCOY TELLS JOHN MANNING ALL ABOUT THE FUN LAUGHTER ON THE BEACH PROMISED BY THIS YEAR’S SKERRIES MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL
A‘ BELLY laugh and lots of seaside fun’ is what’s promises at the Skerries Midsummer Festival in June which was launched last week amid great hilarity on the beach by comedian, Al Porter who headlines the opening night of the four day festival. The Skerries Midsummer Festival has grown out of the Skerries Water Festival to a four day festival of fun and frolics on the beach, whether you’re under the summer sun or in the festival marquee.
Skerries Tourism is behind the festival and chairman of the local group Terry McCoy who runs the acclaimed Skerries restaurant, The Red Bank, sat down with the Fingal Independent to tell us what he and his hard working festival committee have in store for the Skerries Midsummer festival which comes to town from June 15 to June 18, this year.
With his tongue somewhat in his cheeks, Terry tells us about some of the more noted international visitors the town has welcomed over the years as evidence there is always a welcome on the mat for visitors to the seaside town. He said: ‘Skerries has a long tradition of tourism. If you go back far enough, we welcomed the Vikings, we welcomed St Patrick and even two German submarines went up on Rockabill lighthouse in the First World War in 1916 and repaired themselves before pushing off again so we have a long history of attracting international visitors.’
Explaining how the Skerries Midsummer Festival came about, the Skerries man said: ‘About five years ago we reformed Skerries tourism which had gone into abeyance. It had been there in several guises over the last 40 or 50 years ago and we resurrected it and I’m the chairman and we have a very active committee.’
Skerries now has a string of festivals and community events right through the summer season and according to the Skerries Tourism chairman, this was a deliberate strategy to string out the town’s festival activities into bite-sized chunks over the season.
He explained: ‘We are a small community and we have a limited amount of accommodation to let so we can’t cope with a huge festival like the festival in Kerry for example so what we decided to do a number of years ago was to have a series of smaller festivals that would be easier to manage and don’t burst the committee and have everyone knackered afterwards. The Soundwaves committee does its thing, the Traditional Music Weekend committee do their thing and Midsummer Festival do our thing and then you have the motorbikes filling in and the GAA and Rugby Club and soccer club run their events and we have the An Post Ras finish so you have a series of events going on and they are all easily managed.’
The Skerries Tourism chairman said it is a constant battle to convince visitors to Dublin to step out beyond the city and it is one that everyone in Skerries is taking on.
He said: ‘You have to fight for tourism here and fight with the big national agencies for recognition that we exist out here and that tourism has a place other than Temple Bar in Dublin. We have to fight a little harder for attention out here.’
The festival opens with a mysterious and fun dining experience called ‘ The Mystery Dine Around’ and who better to explain it than the man behind one of Fingal’s finest restaurant. Terry explained the idea, saying: ‘ There was a book launched of Skerries recipes recently called ‘ The Goat’s Cheese’ and we will pick out about four interesting restaurants locally that supplied recipes to that book and we will asked them to do a course featuring the recipes in the book and we’ll sell the tickets for maybe €30 so someone could start here in the Red Bank and have their starter and then go down and maybe in the Rockabill they might have their main course, and then the might go down to Brasco’s on the harbour and have their dessert and then finish up in the Marquee laughing to Al Porter - so that’s the idea.’ That leads us nicely to the main event of the festival’s opening night where the popular comedian and broadcaster, Al Porter takes his irreverent brand of comedy to the marquee stage in front of an expected audience of around 500.
Al helped to launch the festival on Skerries beach last week, alongside Terry and some local children who enjoyed a few ice creams from the legendary Storm in a Teacup and posed for suitably sunny pictures.
Terry said Al Porter’s only other Dublin gig this year will be in Vicar Street so this will be a rare opportunity to see him live locally and should not be missed. Al is well acquainted with Skerries and regularly visited the town as a child on a family day out.
On the second night of the festival, things get a little more formal with a Black Tie Ball in the Marquee for 300 people and this is an event that Terry is really looking forward to.
He said: ‘On the Friday night we are going to have a Black Tie Ball and we have a bit of a tradition in doing that now. Last year it was a roaring success because it allowed the people of Skerries to come out and celebrate summer and Skerries and it was just a lovely occasion where we all chit-chatted and danced and boogies and let our hair down for the whole evening.’ Down at the seafront is where it all happens on Saturday and Sunday starting on the Saturday with what the festival is calling its ‘Beach Fun Day on the South Strand’. The day will include beach sports, sandcastle competitions and children’s events, a treasure hunt and a fun run. That evening, the adults are invited to relive
their youth in an 80s retro night at the Marquee with the hugely popular ‘Spring Break’ famed for their retro music.
On Sunday, a lot of the events from the former Skerries Water Festival reappear with a display form the local lifeboat heroes of Skerries RNLI, a swimming race, a power boat race and a rowing race but the undoubted highlight of the day will be the traditional and hugely popular Skerries Raft Race.
The festival comes to a lively close with a free evening of traditional music at the Marquee on the Sunday night.
Terry laid out his hopes for the festival, saying: ‘ What it will allow the people of Skerries to do is rejoice in their wonderful location where they live and kind of harvest in on that and recognise the sea and the seaside and also rejoice in the fact that we won the Tidiest Town in Ireland.
‘Fingal County Council are very much on board and are a major sponsor of the festival and the Progressive Credit Union who have the Martello Tower as their logo, are very involved with us and they are the two major sponsors.’ While the festival is all about fun, ultimately Skerries Tourism are pursuing a very serious project that could transform the tourist offering in the town by refurbishing the neglected Martello Tower with the help of Fingal County Council, who own the building.
It is hoped that the building can be transformed into what an interpretative centre that will tell the story of St Patrick and how that story is intertwined with Skerries.
Terry’s passion for the town is clear and he’s lived here since 1972 when he said he left Tipperary Town ‘about as far from the sea as you can get and came to Skerries to see the sea, and never went back to Tipperary’.
Turning the Martello Tower into a tourist attraction is a dream of his and he is bursting with ideas on what the building could do from telling the story of St Patrick to providing a rooftop observatory space to take advantage of the low light pollution in Skerries to fun and educational exhibitions for kids featuring local geology, flora, fauna and sea creatures.
That project is some years down the line and for now, the Skerries Midsummer Festival is what fills the Skerries man’s thoughts and his diary and that of his hard-working committee. That committee could always use volunteers to help run the festival so if you have a few hours to spare in mid-June you would be welcomed with open arms. Those interested in just going along and having fun at some of the myriad of events over the four days can get tickets locally or on Eventbrite. You can find out more at the Skerries Midsummer Festival Facebook page.
WHAT IT WILL ALLOW THE PEOPLE OF SKERRIES TO DO IS REJOICE IN THEIR WONDERFUL LOCATION WHERE THEY LIVE AND KIND OF HARVEST IN ON THAT AND RECOGNISE THE SEA AND THE SEASIDE AND ALSO REJOICE IN THE FACT THAT WE WON THE TIDIEST TOWN IN IRELAND.
Skerries Rowing Club Carol Guinan, Niamh Butler, Ciaran Barker and Deborah McLoughlin with Arleigh Clarke at the launch of Skerries Midsummer Festival.
Alfie Forkan(left), Terry McCoy, Al Porter and DJ Forkan at the launch of Skerries Midsummer Festival.