K-Fest's the gift that keeps giving

Standards higher than ever at Killorglin's major arts festival

Tristian, Felix and Carol Palmer enjoying the K Fest in Killorglin on Saturday. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Tristian, Felix and Carol Palmer enjoying the K Fest in Killorglin on Saturday. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

Tadhg Evans

In its seven years' existence, Killorglin's K-FEST has grown and grown and grown again, to the point that it today brings approximately 10,000 people to the area for the June Bank Holiday weekend.

As local K-FEST veteran Mike Dowd put it, it used to be an arts festival that people would call to for a few hours. Nowadays, it draws people in and keeps them there for an entire weekend, with some people even planning their trips home to coincide with the festival.

Its standards were never low, far from it, but they are rising, and that might have more than a little part to play in its ever-growing popularity. From the Friday-afternoon children's book readings to a Monday-night rambling house in Sheahan's, it was quality from start to finish.

"My son is a singer-songwriter and engineer in Bristol, and he timed his trip home for K-FEST," Mike said. "He even brought some slam poets along with him from Bristol. And that's the way things seem to be going with this now.

"On the music side of things, we had numerous, numerous bands. I think Belfast band Kneecap were the stand-out for me, but there were similar, cutting-edge bands throughout.

"We had four venues on the go, with around 20 to 25 bands, and the venues were full to the brim.

"On the arts side of things, everyone agreed the standard was higher than ever before, with the Screaming Pope prize for emerging talent going to Tom McLean."

It was, as Mike put it, a game of two halves, with a very-much family-oriented list of events for daytime, before music took over as the day darkened.

Another highlight was a Céilí Afro Dabke on Friday night in the CYMS hall, with around 35 performers - roughly 25 dancers and 10 musicians - bringing a blend of African, Lebanese, and Irish entertainment to the town.

"It was a very unusual feature, but a brilliant one, and I really enjoyed it," Mike said. "I'd like to thank Kerry County Council Dancer in Residence Catherine Young and the Arts Council for helping us to get that going.

"Indeed, we do get backing from KCC and the Arts Council, but 75 per cent of our funding comes from the town of Killorglin itself. So, for that, we are very thankful."