Monday 14 October 2019

‘We just can’t stay away’ - How Battle for the Lake grew from a party for a few kite-surfing friends to a 4,500 capacity festival

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

RECORD numbers made the journey to Achill Island for this year’s Battle for the Lake festival.

The Co Mayo island welcomed a bustling crowd - estimated at around 4,500 - for the music and water-sports festival

Now in its tenth year, the festival has grown significantly from its humble origins. Originally, the event was little more than a few kite-surfing friends meeting up and having a session.

One of those kite surfers is Andrew O’Reilly, who has also sung at the event nearly every year since its inception. He recounted how in the early days, he would have performed in an old lodge to a much smaller crowd with his acoustic guitar.

Pro Kite surfer and Current Irish champion Sean Murphy from Waterford performs a jump over festival organisers at Battle For the Lake.
Photo: Michael Mc Laughlin
Pro Kite surfer and Current Irish champion Sean Murphy from Waterford performs a jump over festival organisers at Battle For the Lake. Photo: Michael Mc Laughlin

The lodge was bought by Francois Colussi, originally as a place for the kite-surfing community to convene after practising water sports. However, since then, his company Pure Magic has welcomed a wider community to the island to enjoy the spectacle.

“Achill Island has always been a mecca for kite surfing,” Mr O’Reilly, or Andre RE as he is known in music circles, said.

“It’s a tight-knit community. So, Francois came over and he found a lodge that was for sale and they bought it and turned it into a kitesurfing lodge. The lodge opened around 12 years ago.

“It didn’t start out as a professional kite-surfing event. It was just ‘Who has the most energy? Who can do the SUP (stand up paddle boarding)? Who can do the biggest jumps with the kites? Who is going to run around the beach all day?’ It was just always loads of fun.

“What they have managed to do here is to just create somewhere where we can congregate. It’s getting so much bigger every year - but it’s still all the same friends that come.”

Read More: ‘It would be great to be asked’ - Mundy hopes to feature in PS I Love You sequel after his version of Galway Girl was overlooked in first film

Musical acts at this year's event - which ran from September 27 to Sunday September 30 -  included Daithi, Stolen City, Junior Brother and Tuesday at Six.

Another big name at this year’s event was Mundy, who shared Mr O’Reilly’s sentiment that Achill Island was always welcoming artists and water sport enthusiasts.

Mundy returned this year, having been one of the first acts to play at the festival around a decade ago. After headlining this year’s festival, the 44-year-old singer said that he was amazed upon his return to see how the festival had grown.

“I got an email or a call the first time asking me if I wanted to play. I didn’t even know the festival existed, but I took a punt on it and we had a f**king amazing gig. People seem to be on a buzz regardless.

Some of the crowd enjoying the main stage at Battle For the Lake.
Photo: Anouska Proetta Brandon/ Objective Media
Some of the crowd enjoying the main stage at Battle For the Lake. Photo: Anouska Proetta Brandon/ Objective Media

"There’s a great energy and I think it has something to do with the surfing and the outdoors and that carefree attitude. It’s very refreshing.

“Achill just calls you back, because it’s so untouched. It’s real old Ireland, it’s like looking at a postcard. You could be in Iceland or the highlands in Scotland. Ireland is a little bit screwed up, but I think this is special. It’s old Ireland. It’s a little gem.

“The first time I played here it was only in the lodge, so there were probably 100 or 200 people there. I don’t know how many people were there tonight, but it was a lot more. I’m amazed that they have kept at it and it’s growing and growing and growing.”

Battle for the Lake may have outgrown its humble beginnings, but it's that sense of community and place that has enabled it to go from strength to strength. It's a battle worth fighting.

Mundy performing at Battle For the Lake on Achill Island.
Photo: Anouska Proetta Brandon/ Objective Media
Mundy performing at Battle For the Lake on Achill Island. Photo: Anouska Proetta Brandon/ Objective Media

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