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'Everybody will be tested coming into the site ... for many artists it will be the first time they have performed in front of a live audience in over a year'

As Ireland continues to get to grips with the pandemic, organisers of a major festival in Sligo are confident it will go ahead, Ciara Galvin reports

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Joe Dunleavy on the shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo as artist Rebecca Marsden gives an aerial performance during the reveal of the line-up for the Wild Roots festival. Photo Brian Farrell

Joe Dunleavy on the shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo as artist Rebecca Marsden gives an aerial performance during the reveal of the line-up for the Wild Roots festival. Photo Brian Farrell

Paddy Casey is also in the line-up

Paddy Casey is also in the line-up

The festival will also see an appearance by James Morrison. Photo credit: Yui Mok / PA Wire

The festival will also see an appearance by James Morrison. Photo credit: Yui Mok / PA Wire

Neil O’Connell, festival director

Neil O’Connell, festival director

Christy Dignam and ASLAN are set to play at Hazelwood, Calry. Photo: Arthur Carron

Christy Dignam and ASLAN are set to play at Hazelwood, Calry. Photo: Arthur Carron

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Joe Dunleavy on the shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo as artist Rebecca Marsden gives an aerial performance during the reveal of the line-up for the Wild Roots festival. Photo Brian Farrell

sligochampion

Organisers of a planned music and comedy festival on the shores of Lough Gill in August say they are confident the event will go ahead.

A socially responsible event rather than a socially distanced event is what is planned for the inaugural Wild Roots Festival, says the Festival Director, Neil O'Connell

The festival, which is to take place from August 13th to August 15th next at Hazelwood, has been rescheduled three times but this time organisers are confident it will go ahead, thanks to the introduction of rapid antigen testing for festival goers.

With the likes of Glastonbury not going ahead, despite the UK's reopening, how are the festival committee so sure 2021 will be the year the festival gets off the ground?

"It's all systems go. We've been in discussion with local authorities and on a national level, to make sure we pioneer the way for a safely run event, with antigen testing," O' Connell tells The Sligo Champion.

"It is the future for us," he adds.

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Kaiser Chiefs who are one of the main acts set to play at Hazelwood/Lough Gill

Kaiser Chiefs who are one of the main acts set to play at Hazelwood/Lough Gill

Kaiser Chiefs who are one of the main acts set to play at Hazelwood/Lough Gill

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The festival was due to take place in August last year, but, with ongoing restrictions the date was pushed back to April of this year, which again had to be resheduled.

The festival will celebrate music, performing arts and outdoor adventure.

O'Connell believes he and the organisers are in a much stronger position than they were last year.

"We're in better position this year, feeling more positive, we have answers to run a safe festival. Last year we were hoping Covid would blow over. Now we're re inventing the festival scene.

So what are the logistics?

According to O'Connell, technology will play a big role, as ordering drinks and food via app is set to look like the answer.

"We're looking for safe planned festival, wrist bands apps, even our main bars are scrapped."

Organisers have instead spread six smaller across the site to encourage a greater spread of people.

"On top of that we'll have a rum bar, gin bar, and whiskey bar."

And food is now spread out between campsites, with food being pre ordered via app, for collection. "It's a click and collect run festival."

Taking the positives from the setbacks, Neil says he and the other organisers are lucky it's their first year.

"We're lucky it's our first year, we can plan around Covid."

And what about testing?

"In the coming weeks, we will be announcing details of our new range of advanced health & safety procedures and inviting both media and health authorities on-site for a first look.

"We can confirm that this will include rapid-antigen testing amongst a suite of other measures which will set the standard for Live-in person events of this scale.

"We made the decision last month to move the dates further into the season to accommodate the government's vaccination programme.

"We look forward to being the first Live in-person festival of 2021.

"People will be tested. It's a whole different ball game. Everybody will be tested coming into the site."

Right now O'Connell says the team are still awaiting clarity on some issues of the testing, in term of how long before the event to get tested and for how long the result is valid for.

"The test is going to be around €17 and that will be on the ticket holder to book and pay for their own test. It's an independent testing company," he explains.

The testing company the festival will be using is one which already carries out testing for football teams in the UK. In terms of the vaccination programme, O'Connell says this will not play into the organisers' plans and instead it will be all down to testing.

Capacity at the site is between 8,000 to 10,000, even though the main stage has the capacity for 24,000 festival goers.

He says the reduction of capacity is also down to sustainability, organisers do not want to put the lands under strain.

In terms of camping numbers, the campsites can hold 8,000, but this year organisers are facilitating 2,000 to 3,000 campers, keeping them to a minimum.

With what is expected to be the first live festival in the country, the Wild Roots team aren't leaving anything to chance, and are busy ironing out logistics, while also continuing to announce further acts.

Irish acts Soda Blonde, Daithí, Damien Dempsey and King Kong Company will be joining international artists James Morrison, Booka Shade and the Kaiser Chiefs at the inaugural festival.

Amongst some of the other entertainment highlights announced there will be performances from singer-songwriters Ryan McMullan, Violet Skies, David Keenan and Paddy Casey. Electronic pop artists ROE and Prymary Colours will be also playing as will four-piece pop-rockers Modernlove and festival favourites, Aslan.

There are also other dimensions to the festival.

"We have reimagined the festival experience, lovers of the outdoors can take a swim, have a paddleboard lesson, or hoist a sail on the majestic freshwater lake made famous by W.B Yeats.

"Spend an afternoon rambling through the rugged wilds of the forest where you're likely to meet circus folk, discover hidden art installations or catch an aerial acrobat show," says Neil.

He adds: "For many of the artists, it will be the first time they have performed in front of a Live in-person audience in over a year."

The latest line-up announcements concern the comedy acts. These include Savage Eye star Dave McSavage, Hardy Buck's star Owen Colgan, podcaster and comedian Emma Doran, RTÉ panel star Kevin McGahern, and Barry Murphy of comedy classic Après Match.

The festival will be a welcome boost to the region's local economy.

Commenting on the event Dara Mulvey Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council remarked: "Wild Roots will be an exciting addition to the region's tourism and event portfolio.

"Attendees will enjoy the best of local food, outdoor adventure and creativity all set in one of Europe's most beautiful locations".

Organisers of the event received a big boost last Thursday during the announcement by Government of an easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the general re-opening of society on a phased basis beginning next week.

Minister for Arts, Catherine Martin said the Cabinet agreed that proposals could be prepared on the holding of a limited number of pilot "large events" for sport and music, both indoor and outdoor this summer.

For tickets and further information, see https://wildroots.ie/


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