Fes­ti­val fit

Three fes­ti­vals ev­ery week for a year. We force Mark Gra­ham to choose his top 10

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES 2012 - ayearoffes­ti­valsinire­land.com

DO YOU THINK some par­ents ac­tu­ally do have a favourite child and they just can’t let the other ones know for fear they’ll even­tu­ally get packed off to the re­tire­ment vil­lage or, worse still, have a dis­grun­tled off­spring kick out the plug?

I’ve been asked to pick my Top 10 fes­ti­vals so you can vote for your favourite. I don’t rel­ish the prospect of rolling into a town that’s been ex­cluded, but I think the real dif­fi­culty lies more in me hav­ing had such a buzz at so many of them.

Clon­mel Junc­tion, Spraoi, Eara­gail, Kilkenny, Imag­ine and Gal­way Arts Fes­ti­vals all have so much go­ing for them – and I’m not in­clud­ing any of them. This will not be a fair process.

You don’t have to scratch the sur­face too deeply to re­veal an Ire­land that is not afraid of a splat­ter of cow­shite or an odd hole in a geansaí. There is a wild­ness and un­self­con­scious em­brac­ing of lu­nacy at some fes­ti­vals that ap­peals to me.

Dunderry Coun­try Fair ticks th­ese boxes. En­joy a heaped plate of col­can­non with a fried egg on top, view­ing the coun­try’s finest cock while the band play I’m Go­ing Home to Nob­ber.

Lis­doon­va­rna Match­mak­ing Fes­ti­val gets the nod for sim­i­lar rea­sons. This shindig runs for a whole month: se­ri­ous stamina and/or pre­scrip­tion drugs are a must. “Is it not just a bit hick and messy?” some­one asked me last Septem­ber. Ex­actly!

Not a huge leap to Ted­fest on Inis Mór. This is a sur­real jour­ney into a se­ri­ous ses­sion that will give you a pain in your face from laugh­ing. I missed three fer­ries home. Nuff said.

Re­sem­bling an episode on Craggy Is­land, Dur­row’s Scare­crow Fes­ti­val is an event that’s out­stand­ing in its own field. The pop­u­lace knock out some se­ri­ous lolz while pro­mot­ing a sense of com­mu­nity; it’s hard not to get buzzed up on it.

Com­mu­nity spirit is some­thing the young ladies re­spon­si­ble for Drop Ev­ery­thing on Inís Oirr man­aged to build from scratch. With costs al­most cov­ered through Fun­dit.ie, they cre­ated an in­ti­mate, unique arts fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing artists from Ice­land and Ire­land. This could be the fu­ture of fes­ti­vals. Mean­while, Clon­akilty’s Random Acts of Kind­ness Fes­ti­val sim­ply ra­di­ated home­grown, whole­some, 24-carat pos­i­tiv­ity.

Body and Soul has also built its own com­mu­nity vibe and it can’t be ex­cluded. Big­ger num­bers this year caused some slight grow­ing pains, but it’s still one of the best in show, and a post-mid­night ram­ble through the woods shows ex­actly where this crew excel.

It’s ex­pen­sive, it’s com­mer­cial, it’s im­per­sonal and, as much as I’d like not to in­clude it, I can’t. Elec­tric Pic­nic is a heavy­weight cham­pion. Watch­ing chil­dren, hip­sters, yummy mum­mies and pen­sion­ers danc­ing to in­struc­tions is­sued from a day-glo ly­cra’d Mr Mo­ti­va­tor, all with huge smiles on their faces, was a fes­ti­val high­light.

On the flip side, Knock­ans­tockan pro­vided some roots and ground­ing in the midst of a glut of com­mer­cial sum­mer con­cerns that dis­tracted and bam­boo­zled while suck­ing the spir­its and pock­ets dry. A much­needed kick in the arse to fight fes­ti­val fa­tigue. Fi­nally, just to make my­self seem a lit­tle cul­tured, Lis­towel Writ­ers’ Week at­tracts the glitterati of the literati. Don’t let the vo­cab­u­lary, spec­ta­cles and polo necks fool ya – they can so­cialise as well as they eu­lo­gise, and John B has a wave for ev­ery vis­i­tor.

There ya go, there’s my top 10. I’ve left out so many. If it were just mu­sic beanos, Van­tas­ti­val, Castlepalooza, Liss Ard, Spirit of Folk. For­bid­den Fruit and Sea Ses­sions would be in there too. Clean sheet for next year’s naughty or nice list, I’m ex­pect­ing Valen­tia Isle and Fes­ti­val of the Fires to have full stock­ings. It’s worth not­ing, A Na­tion Once Again was voted the world’s top tune in a BBC on­line poll, so make like Jackie Healy-Rae – vote bi­ased and vote of­ten.

MARK GRA­HAM, BUCKET

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