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Sunday 21 January 2018

Mudfests just a memory with tunes, toast and tea

Emma Lynch and Michael Gallagher get in the spirit at Castle Palooza festival yesterday
Emma Lynch and Michael Gallagher get in the spirit at Castle Palooza festival yesterday

Nicola Anderson in Tullamore

You know you're in relaxed, bank-holiday festival mode when revellers on the bus have wandered into James Joyce territory. Umpteen possibilities on the festival's name play on their lips as they ponder its meaning and origins, before deciding they couldn't hope to improve upon it.

But the weird and wonderful-ness of the Castlepalooza festival over the weekend did not stop at the name -- with hot showers, flushing toilets, great music and remarkably delicious food, no wonder those who had discovered this parallel universe of festivals had conspiratorial smiles on their faces.

Set in the secluded wooded grounds of Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Co Offaly, this was the fifth year of the festival, growing rapidly in acclaim by the year. The presence of MTV Europe cameras over the weekend probably means the secret of Castlepalooza will be out. No bleak, barren mudfest, this, but a cosy little gathering in the woods, laid back and bunting-festooned, this is the teddy bears' picnic of music festivals.

Of course it rained -- naturally -- but somehow, being able to seek the sanctuary of a 17th-Century stately pile, supposedly haunted to boot, made it all pretty close to perfect. And anyway, these festival-goers are a bit like scouts and come prepared for inclement weather in their de rigueur wellies and pac-a-macs. One group, however, confessed they were staying in a local hotel. "Cheap, though -- only €30," they protested.

With Mercury Rev as the headline act, Fionn Regan, Wave Machines and a host of up-and-coming acts, this was a festival for music lovers.

Yesterday, those with tender heads pampered themselves with a soothing massage by the open fire in the castle's restored Morning Room or treated themselves at the Tea and Toast tent.

Festival organiser Cillian Stewart -- nephew of the castle's owner, Dudley Stewart and his partner, Bonnie Vance -- said the family are thrilled to see the old home being used in such a fresh and modern way.

Money raised from the festival goes towards the the upkeep of the castle, which had fallen into serious decline by the 1970s. Half of the acts at Castlepalooza are always up-and-coming Irish artists.

Cillian said today is their biggest day of the year, because people will be telling others what a great time they had, ensuring a good turnout for next year.

Irish Independent

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