Wednesday 17 October 2018

Making a big song and dance of the August bank holiday

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

THE festival season went into overdrive this weekend with dozens of cities, towns and villages vying for the Bank Holiday crowds. One of the most popular draws was the annual Spraoi international street theatre festival which swept through Waterford, attracting more than 160,000 goggle-eyed spectators to join in the holiday weekend fun.

THE festival season went into overdrive this weekend with dozens of cities, towns and villages vying for the Bank Holiday crowds.

One of the most popular draws was the annual Spraoi international street theatre festival which swept through Waterford, attracting more than 160,000 goggle-eyed spectators.

Dubbed the biggest street party in Ireland, the three days of festivities drew to a close last night as the country's only after-dark parade wound through the city streets.

Revellers shrugged off the bitter disappointment of the county's defeat to Munster rivals Cork in yesterday's All-Ireland hurling semi-final in spectacular fashion by a barrage of fireworks over the River Suir.

Visitors young and old were treated to more than 200 acts, from African drummers and comedy acts, to death-defying high-wire acrobatic displays and more sedate puppet shows.

Wellies

Festival-goers were invited to retire their muddy wellies and banish all memories of tent-burning at Castlepalooza in Co Offaly. Set in the sumptuous surroundings of Charleville Castle in Tullamore, the intimate music festival played host to a line-up of home-grown talent, including Republic of Loose and The Blizzards.

Unlike other summer music gatherings, the 1,500 visitors enjoyed access to the castle all weekend, with can-can dancers and snake charmers lending an exotic touch. But despite the decadent surroundings music fans still endured traditional festival accommodation - sleeping under canvas.

Meanwhile, the village of Keadue in Co Roscommon echoed to more melodic strains as traditional music enthusiasts travelled from far and wide for the annual O'Carolan Harp Festival and Summer School.

Usually home to fewer than 150 residents, the temporary population swelled to over 7,000 in advance of today's International Harp Competition where local talent will compete against harpists from as far afield as Russia and Serbia.

For the past week, every second house in the village has been filled with the sound of concertinas, banjos, uileann pipes and tin whistles, something the 'last of the Irish bards,' a man who made his living playing in the big Houses, would surely have approved of.

But the organisers would probably prefer to have a Harp Centre to accommodate the summer school and concerts; politicians have long had their ears scalded about funding for such a facility.

And there is no sign of festival burnout, with 50,000 music lovers expected to throng Ballybunion for the 2006 World Fleadh this coming weekend. Die-hard festival folk can look forward to 35 major concerts over its seven-day programme from August 14-20.

The headline acts include: The Waterboys; The Gipsy Kings; John Spillane; the Sharon Shannon Big Band; La Bottine Souriante; Carlos Nunez; Capercaillie and Kila.

The World Fleadh aims to offer a major outlet for fans of traditional music - while broadening the tourist appeal of Ballybunion beyond its golf course.

But the fleadh also hopes to transfer to Ireland the hugely successful folk music festival format that has seen similar events thrive throughout Europe.

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