Thursday 21 September 2017

MILK rises to top of Europe's gay festivals

Sophie Ellis Bextor woos the revellers gathered at Ballinlough Castle in Westmeath for Europe's first outdoor gay festival
Sophie Ellis Bextor woos the revellers gathered at Ballinlough Castle in Westmeath for Europe's first outdoor gay festival
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary and his wife Anita were there to enjoy the acts, which included 1980s icons Bananarama
Revelers enjoying themselves at the Milk Music Festival in Ballinlough Castle
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

EUROPE'S first outdoor festival for the gay community may become a two-day event next year following the success of the inaugural concert which took place at a 400-year-old Irish castle at the weekend.

Over 5,000 revellers descended on Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, to see top acts such as 'X Factor' winner Alexandra Burke, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Leitrim-born comedian Katherine Lynch. Other performers included former page three girl-turned-singer Samantha Fox.

The event was MC'd by the queen of Irish drag, Panti.

Organisers said yesterday that the plan next year is to extend the MILK festival to two days. "Considering the success of the event, that should be achievable," a spokesperson confirmed.

The concert also attracted some local celebrities -- Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, accompanied by his pregnant wife Anita, bopped away to 1980s icons Bananarama. And former Big Brother contestant and DJ Ray Shah also danced into the night with a group of friends, while Drew Flood, the manager of Bentley's restaurant on Dublin's St Stephen's Green, was among the revellers.

Named after the US gay rights campaigner and politician Harvey Milk, the festival is also the first in Ireland to target the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The event is the brainchild of friends Valerie Reaney and Emma Jane Dunne, who felt there was a niche in the festival market. Their business partners are entrepreneurial husband and wife team Donal and Siobhan O'Malley.

The theme of the festival was 'Alice in Wonderland' meets 'Wizard of Oz' and visuals of giant tea cosies and teacups transformed the castle grounds.

Ms Dunne said she hoped the festival would soon become "the number one event on the European gay calendar".

Irish Independent

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