FES­TI­VAL FIT

Hang­ing out in the woods with only the bare ne­ces­si­ties? Mark Gra­ham has just one ques­tion: Is the Pope catholic?

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

When peak fes­ti­val sea­son rolls around, the ses­sion in­ten­sity winds up, but voy­ag­ing be­tween par­ty­ing ports be­comes more lan­guid (with the added bonus of be­ing able to re­place the baby­wipe-bath with a swim in calm wa­ters). The sun picks out in­can­des­cent pin-pricks of colour from the dark throb of lush, dark-green fields; dots of elec­tric yel­low from sway­ing irises, swathes of crim­son pop­pies flap­ping in a gen­tle breeze, all sur­rounded by tiny vol­leys of burst­ing white blooms from borders of hawthorn and el­der­flower (plant­ing sub­lim­i­nal de­sires for fra­grant and frosted home­made brews). The land­lub­ber’s life takes on the se­duc­tion of a siren and pulling up an­chor to set sail for the shores of dis­tant ses­sions be­comes more dif­fi­cult than the voy­age it­self, es­pe­cially when you’re docked in the har­bour of a hop­ping hap­pen­ing.

BARE in the Woods fes­ti­val al­most didn’t show up on my nav­i­ga­tional chart. It’s a small, one-day BYOB fes­ti­val on the out­skirts of Por­tar­ling­ton that had orig­i­nally set out to cater for around 800 people, but looked set to dou­ble that num­ber as I eased Wan­derly Wagon into a berth in a bustling field. The line-up was im­pres­sive, with New Se­cret Weapon, Sounds of Sys­tem Break­down and Natty Wailer fea­tur­ing among 30 acts on the bill, but it was the set-up of this shindig that made it stand out. The ef­fort, in­ge­nu­ity and cre­ative spark that went into the in­stal­la­tions and stages on the site are wor­thy of any fes­ti­val any­where in the world.

The Cran­nóg stage was like a func­tion room from Mid­dle-Earth, com­plete with a bor­der of soft fur­nish­ings and its own moat. The crowd this gig at­tracted were per­fectly at home in the pine-fresh set­ting, and I recog­nised more than a few of them; this was go­ing to be a do of distinc­tion. The dread­lock-to-free-range-dog co­ef­fi­cient also sug­gested some rollicking re­sults. I was gut­ted to leave early, but I’m told there will be an­other chance to go down to the woods in Septem­ber, and with the in­fra­struc­ture and ef­fort that the crew have put in here, it’ll def­i­nitely get more at­ten­tion next year. Keep sketch!

CLIFF LANGERS

The night be­fore, Sea­mus Be­g­ley had been his usual rak­ish and ebul­lient self at Doolin Folk Fes­ti­val. Upon re­ceiv­ing a slip of paper from the crowd, he an­nounced: “Hang on lads. I have a re­quest here for Pierre and Am­ber from Bos­ton, who got mar­ried on the Cliffs of Mo­her to­day.” Pierre and Am­ber ap­peared at the front of the stage, both beam­ing at each other, and both re­splen­dent in silky white wed­ding fin­ery, await­ing well-wishes and a waltz. “Ye feck­ing eejits! Ye would’ve been bet­ter off jump­ing off the cliffs than get­ting mar­ried. I have a right tune for ye,” said Be­g­ley as he launched into The Cuckoo Waltz.

Af­ter leav­ing BARE in the Woods I was more than a lit­tle dis­grun­tled. I ar­gued with my­self in the van all the way to the Fes­ti­val of Writ­ing and Ideas at Bor­ris House. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing half the scead has there was at the for­est fleadh, but the at­mos­phere in the room where Philom­ena Lee spoke was as charged as any fes­ti­val field I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced. The re­spect and depth of emo­tion was pal­pa­ble, and when the talk fin­ished, the crowd spon­ta­neously rose to their feet to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what Philom­ena’s story has done for them, and for Ir­ish so­ci­ety in gen­eral. She had been good-hu­moured and smil­ing through­out, but it was this ges­ture of ap­pre­ci­a­tion from the au­di­ence that moved Philom­ena to tears. It was a priv­i­lege to be in the room.

This weekend there will be sol­stice events all over the coun­try, but Body&Soul has my un­di­vided at­ten­tion. Wan­derly Wagon’s an­chor was dropped in Ballinlough yes­ter­day morn­ing, all the sails have been stowed and we may not feel the roll of the road ’til Tues­day. Bring it!

Safe trav­els, don’t die.

MUM’S THE WORD: PHILOM­ENA LEE AND HER DAUGH­TER JANE

RAK­ISH: SEA­MUS BE­G­LEY

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