Friday 23 March 2018

Making a virtue out of vice on the festival trail

Food, drink, art, music and a lot of fun is to be had from one end of the country to the other, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan

IRELAND has become a nation of festivals. This is great for local areas, as festivals not only bring to a place a great excitement, bonding and getting together of local communities, but they also bring people in to spend money and keep the euro trundling around. You could, in fact, have a really fun holiday moving around to different festivals or just dipping in and out as you wish.

Kinsale Arts Festival kicked off yesterday and runs until next Sunday. Now in its eighth year, what started off in a fairly simple form with art exhibitions, theatrical events and concerts has mushroomed into a comprehensive arts festival with something for everyone. It also incorporates lots of fun food events in a town well known for its restaurants.

Guest artistic director Gemma Tipton says Kinsale Arts Festival 2012 is making "Virtue out of Vice" as the festival looks at both the darker and lighter sides of life. Food events include a murder mystery dinner at Ballinacurra, the country house that Michael Jackson made his Irish base, fishy workshops with Martin Shanahan from Fishy Fishy restaurant, plus a psychological dinner with ArtforEating -- you may never look at food the same way again.

The main exhibition Virtue and Vice on and off the Walls looks at the festival themes through the eyes of some of our leading artists. Jackie Nickerson and Abigail O'Brien explore faith and the cardinal virtues, while Nevan Lahart squares up to 18th-Century maestro William Hogarth for a contemporary take on sin.

Kenmare has joined the food festival circuit with a new Kenmare Food Carnival from July 13 to 15. Organisers are adding a retro touch with an old-style carnival in the square with a vintage carousel, helter skelter and swing boats -- remember them?

Cillian Rogers will also be organising a Rio Irish-style carnival parade through the town -- with a foodie theme -- so dig out your Forties-style pineapple turban and shimmy on down. Kenmare Carnival will have a Taste Kenmare trail offering signature bites from restaurants, cafes and bakeries, and an opportunity to meet the local producers, who will also be displaying their produce in art galleries, so combining food and art. And Jack McCarthy will be there again with his boudins (black pudding).

A cookery demonstration theatre will feature seven cookery demonstrations on Saturday and six on Sunday with well known chefs. A drinks quarter will offer craft beer and cider tastings, whilst there will also be numerous whiskey and wine tastings and talks. Put your name down for the Silver Slipper Supper, which will be a trip down memory lane for those who danced in the Silver Slipper dance hall during the Sixties and Seventies.

If you love scallops, then the Valentia Island King Scallop Festival is without a doubt the one for you. It is now in its third year, and is running on July 14 and 15, showcasing Valentia Island, just off the Ring of Kerry, as a holiday destination for families, and the unique locally sourced King Scallop.

Festival highlights this year include the launch of the festival on the Saturday with the Valentia Island Pipe Band led by Mr King Scallop 2011, a rugby blitz at Cracow Park, on-street cooking demonstrations, a junior triathlon hosted by Valentia Island Triathlon Club at Knightstown, a challenge cricket match hosted by Valentia Island Cricket Club at Cracow Park, craft fair, angling competition, blessing of the local fishing boats, live street music and, of course, the crowning of this year's Mr King Scallop. www.facebook. com/valentia.kingscallop

Over on Achill Island from July 19-22, the family-friendly Feile Bia Na Mara festival will be celebrating the mari-time heritage of the Achill region and showcasing the rich harvest of fish, seafood and edible sea vegetables from the Atlantic waters. There will be a gala seafood buffet, an Achill's Got Talent contest, a Cailin Og and Buachaill Og competition; seaweed safaris, numerous cookery demonstrations with high profile chefs, tastings, family sandcastle competition, fresh fish markets and much more. Apart from all of that, Achill is an amazing experience in itself.

In Co Clare, the Doonbeg Seafood Festival will take place from July 20-22. Events here will include a funfair, currach racing, a duck race, and a farmers' market. Children can enjoy pony and trap rides, face painting, and other fun activities, whilst parents can enjoy various cookery demonstrations by chefs including Adrian Medvec, Wade Murphy, Aidan McManus and Hisashi Kumagai. www.doonbeg

The ancient heritage village of Ardmore, Co Waterford, is holding its Ardmore Pattern from July 27-29. The tradition of the 'Pattern' of St Declan, patron saint of Ardmore, goes back hundreds of years, drawing people from far and wide on July 24 each year to venerate at the Holy Well and reputed grave of St Declan. The aim of the Ardmore Pattern, which was revived in 2007, is to bring alive the old traditions whilst also organising a fun-filled festival to attract people to beautiful Ardmore -- and it is beautiful. There will be music, fun and food in Ardmore that weekend including performances by Aslan, Frankie Gavin and De Danann, and the Waterford Jazz Ensemble do the Gypsi Swing. Kevin Dundon will be cooking 'Supper by the Sea' in St Declan's Hall on Thursday evening, July 26, and organisers are hoping to have powerboating in the bay as in previous years.

Cork Food Week is being launched this year, and will run from July 27 to August 4. It is being held in conjunction with the Titanic 100 Festival and will kick off with the Titanic Ball in City Hall on July 27 in aid of the Cope Foundation. Tickets are €100 and include champagne and canapes, followed by a five-course dinner, with various Cork restaurants catering for the event. The week will progress with food events intermingling with arts, fashion, and design, and showcasing the best of Cork.

The Carlow Garden Festival is on from July 28 to August 5 and covers everything from bulbs to borders, woodlands to wildlife. There are some wonderful gardens to visit and some really well known gardening folk taking part including Dermot O'Neill and Gerry Daly.

You can take a walk through the serene woodland trails of Rath Wood, experience the wonders of the birds of prey at Woodlands Falconry or treat yourself in the Chocolate Garden. Two workshops with Frances MacDonald will offer expert gardening advice. Another interesting event is a tour of the formal gardens at Huntington Castle with John McCullen, including the 17th century parterre, ornamental lakes and fish pond.

The Fourth Drogheda Food Festival kicks off on August 10 and runs until August 12. It promises to offer a celebration of the fantastic produce of the north east, from oysters to smoked salmon, cheeses and breads, honey and jams. The restaurants and cafes will have special festival menus offering local food cooked with passion and pride. The markets will be filled with food and produce from the area and there will be cookery demonstrations to show you how to use the fresh produce in an imaginative and economic way.

Then you can head off to Donegal for the three-day Taste of Donegal Food Festival, running from August 24-26. This is the fourth year of this event, which attracted over 28,000 people last year. It will be a celebration of great food, drink and lifestyle products with celebrity chef appearances, tutored wine classes by wine experts, food and drink exhibitors with tastings, music and much more.

This is but a snapshot of some of the many festivals around the country up to the end of August -- and then we will be ready for the autumn food festivals -- but more of that anon. Go and enjoy.

Sunday Independent

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