Monday 26 September 2016

Anna Nolan: The outdated Rose of Tralee festival has nothing relevant to offer anymore

Anna Nolan

Published 02/08/2016 | 07:19

Meath Rose Elysha Brennan chats with Daithi O Sé at the Rose of Tralee in Kerry.
Meath Rose Elysha Brennan chats with Daithi O Sé at the Rose of Tralee in Kerry.
Elysha Brennan said it was a rollercoaster experience following her cancer diagnosis. Photo: Frank McGrath
Reigning Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh
Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh
Daithi O Se at the 205 Rose of Tralee. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Anna Nolan
Former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain on a charity trip to India in 2006
The Meath Rose Elysha Brennan who became the 2015 Rose of Tralee at the Rose of Tralee International festival.

As a child, competitions are important.

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Not in the “everyone’s a winner” way that we now see in school. More in a “you win, you lose, deal with it” sort of way.

From an early age, competing was part of life.

I was in a school orchestra from the age of seven or eight right until my final year in secondary school.

The Meath Rose Elysha Brennan who became the 2015 Rose of Tralee at the Rose of Tralee International festival.
The Meath Rose Elysha Brennan who became the 2015 Rose of Tralee at the Rose of Tralee International festival.

As a group of musicians we visited the Arklow Music Festival or learned orchestral pieces for the Feis Ceoil.

Even though I was part of an ensemble, I would still be nervous as we walked onto the stage, sat down in silence, I laid my bow on the violin and we started. We didn’t always win, but when we did we would squeal (because that’s what teenage girls do) and hug and cheer.

As a child I recited poems for judges in the Father Mathew Hall. I was also entered into a strange storytelling competition one year. I had the disastrous experience of freezing on stage for a good 10 seconds. Eventually the words came back into my head and I found my voice again.

As I teenager I played basketball in Ireland, Europe, Canada and America. I felt the elation of winning the National Cup Player of the Year award, and have accepted the devastation of losing in the Senior School cup.

Anna Nolan
Anna Nolan

I can safely say that competitions have played a big healthy role in my life.

So when I see all the competitions that are around me these days – the Olympics, the Euros, the Man Booker, the Young Scientist – I appreciate the work that goes into the preparation and I respect the purpose of the event.

All except one strange, pointless, old-fashioned piece of claptrap that returns year after year – the Rose of Tralee.

Now, I’m not fully blaming the organisers or RTE. Because around a million people watch the bloody show every year.

Former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain on a charity trip to India in 2006
Former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain on a charity trip to India in 2006

It is a phenomenal amount of people, so the national broadcaster would be very foolish to axe it. For many who head down to Tralee each year, I believe that craic is mighty (you can just hear Daithi saying that).

But for the 20 or 30 women who turn up for the week in Kerry, my main dilemma is – how exactly do they prepare for this competition? What practise, training or mental preparation do they go through.

Let’s see. I imagine for the walk onto the stage, they need to pace up and down their sitting room at home, and wave to the crowds in a warm yet enthusiastic manner.

For the interview with Daithi, I’d say they need to stand for 15 minutes and chat to a young brother or sister about Trump, single life, their favourite type of puppy, and world peace.

Daithi O Se at the 205 Rose of Tralee. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Daithi O Se at the 205 Rose of Tralee. Picture: Steve Humphreys

If the younger sibling dares ask a question about silly lovely lady competitions, they get a swift slap to the back of the head.

For the “winning” of the competition move, they need to stand in front of a mirror at home and be able to bring up tears within 3.5 seconds, all the while smiling sweetly and sickly.

For my basketball, orchestra, poetry recital, storytelling and painting, I rehearsed, trained, learned, learned again, sweated, took a deep breath, performed, got paralysed, won, lost, reacted, recovered.

That’s what a competition is about. This farce of a competition is an embarrassment to anyone who thinks that waving, smiling and talking about growing up in Texas or wherever means anything to anyone.

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