Festival to be annual event after success

Marisa Reidy

THREE days of celebrating women in media. It had never been done before, so expectations were modest at best, but always hopeful.

As it turned out, the organisers of the inaugural Women in Media showcase in Ballybunion had nothing to fear, as the event not only attracted some of the top names in Irish journalism to the seaside town, but there was standing room only at most events.

"The event totally and utterly exceeded all our expectations and every single event attracted huge crowds," event PRO, Deirdre Walsh, told The Kerryman. "We were unsure what to expect because this was our first time trying this, and although we had hoped it would take off, we were astonished with just how well it all went."

Paying tribute to the locals of Ballybunion who were a massive support all weekend, Deirdre said that she was taken aback by the level of support for each and every aspect of the programme.

The Maeve Binchy symposium on Saturday afternoon was standing room only, she said, while Saturday night's gala ball - at which Miriam O'Callaghan received the Mary Cummins Award for outstanding contribution to media - was another sell-out.

Another special aspect to the ball was an inspiring speech by well known journalist and campaigner Mary Kenny about just how far women have come within the industry.

Saturday morning's symposium on women in politics and media, featuring talks from deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Aine Collins, along with journalists Catherine Halloran and Alison O'Connor, was also hugely popular, Deirdre said.

"Another fabulous aspect to the weekend was the showing of an old Radharc documentary from the 1960s in which a priest was asking holiday makers in Ballybunion if they had lost their moral code when they arrived here. It was brilliant to watch and locals loved it."

As well as celebrating the achievements of those who shaped the role of women in Irish media, the inaugural Women in Media weekend also showcased Ballybunion to a massive audience.

"We had journalists from all across the country out and about taking pictures and posting them on twitter, which was amazing for Ballybunion. You couldn't pay for exposure like that," Deirdre said.

Given the success of the weekend's event, Deirdre and fellow organisers Joan and John O'Connor from Kilcooley's Restaurant - whom Deirdre added were superb hosts for many of the events - and Rhona Tarrant of Radio Kerry and RTE, have confirmed that it will certainly become an annual event.