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dun laoghaire festival of world cultures, the joys!

1 Aug

Entirely wrecked and zapped (as my mother says) after the adventures of the weekend. It’s all the fault of a festival of course, this time the Festival of World Cultures (FWC) in Dun Laoghaire. A friend and I had applied to be volunteers, the idea being that we could spice up our CVs and enjoy ourselves simultaneously. The latter part of the plan certainly came together nicely- being a volunteer is DEADLY. Our first shift was at half ten on Saturday and before we could begin we were kitted out with everything one needs to help out the festival goers: swish orange FWC tshirt (so you are easily identified from a great distance) ; poncho (nobody wants to be assisted by a dripping wet person); lanyard with a wee map of the area; and a Nutri Grain (can’t answer questions if you have no energy!). Then it was off to our appointed spot- the Global Village on Carlisle Pier- to meet our supervisor and some of our fellow volunteers. On arrival we had a good chat with the rest of our team and got nicely acquainted. As you’d expect at an event like this everybody was positively lovely. Once everyone was accounted for we were given our instructions and the work part began in earnest. Fortunately, for us at least, the work part was fairly relaxed- our job was simply to wander around with programs and copies of the Festival Times newspaper and hand them out to people. And to appear cheerful and welcoming of course.

We were delighted with our lot- the Global Village, a market selling food and crafts from all over the place- was on our must see list anyway. Now and again when we felt there wasn’t much for us to help out with there we were free to take  a wander towards Queen’s Road, where the majority of the outdoor festivities were taking place and spread our programs and welcomes there. On such jaunts we got to see plenty of what the festival has to offer: street theatre on the sea front; parades in the People’s park; and world music on the main stage.

The festival was of a different nature to others I’ve been to. For a start it was a family event, at least during the day. On Sunday my job was to man various games on the sea front, I got to blow giant bubbles, spin for families playing Twister and admire children’s artwork before sticking it up on the railings (funny, adults didn’t seem to want to paint themselves, I’d love the excuse!), it really made a nice change of pace from sitting in a campsite drinking cans (not that that’s not a lovely way to spend an afternoon). It’s a long time since I’d hung out with anyone in the under ten bracket, I’d almost forgotten how mental kids are. Or rather I’d forgotten that kids are just as mental as people my age but they get to act all that out in play or paint. As the day wore on we ran out of paper so the little folks started painting the footpath, really gorgeous stuff so it was. All of this already had me feeling pretty sentimental so my heart almost broke when I saw a Dad admonishing his son for getting some paint on his knees. I mean i can understand that keeping the clothes of a child clean can be an immense chore. I remember my mum constantly giving out to me for the mud and grass and marker and paint and tar that decorated my clothes when they greeted her in the wash basket. But the thing is now my clothes are hardly ever stained (and if they are it’s with something dull, like toothpaste): you grow out of building huts and jumping over streams, finding shortcuts, spilling poster paints and picking blackberries as quickly as you grow out of those stained clothes. Getting your clothes dirty isn’t like pulling someone’s hair or telling your brother there are snakes in the garden: it’s not something you did with malice that needs to be punished. Stains are evidence of the fun you had that day. So while I wouldn’t recommend a total laissez faire approach (things like Sunday best should be respected) I reckon that kids shouldn’t be sent off to play with the idea that they have to limit their actions to ones which will keep them clean. There are only a certain number of years when immersing yourself in mud is an acceptable (or an appealing) activity. Eventually the days when kids come home looking like they’ve been dragged backwards through a ditch made of ice cream will pass and you know I reckon those are days that most parents come to miss. So if you’re reading this Dun Laoghaire man, ease up on your son. He won’t be painting footpaths forever.

Of course children tire eventually and as it got darker the games were cleared away and we made our way to Purty Loft to check out a group called Jah Wobble and the Nippon Dub Ensemble. As is typical of the musical events you encounter at FWC we had no idea what to expect of Mr. Wobble and friends. In the event we were provided with an interesting and very mellow set consisting of fairly fantastic dubstep bass laid over with traditional Asian vocals. In general most of the music I saw over the few days had something of the surreal to recommend itself, and while I may not have been mad about every single act, at least you were going along to something entirely different, a band whose album you hadn’t had on repeat since February so they still had the power to really surprise.

Unfortunately for Mr. Wobble, while we were certainly impressed with his musical abilities it wasn’t the perfect soundtrack for 5 young volunteers who were fresh from a 6 hour shift on their feet. We needed tunage that would compel us to dance, shaking off our fatigue in the process. The heat in the Purty Loft wasn’t helping our eyes to stay open either so as soon as the gig was finished we made straight for the Kingston Hotel where there was a bit of a party for the volunteers. It turned out to be an excellent auld evening, great chats with everyone AND we got free beers!

Looking back the volunteer experience really was jammed full of little perks and pluses: free entry to gigs; free food at the lovely volunteer canteen (or voluntainer as some clever folks called it); exceptionally lovely people; and the chance to skip the odd queue and get asked for help and feel useful, I’ll certainly want to be getting involved again….

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Cirque de Legume and other amusements

9 Jul

Initially the prospect of an entire Summer in Sligo was about as welcome as the Joker at Batman’s birthday party (well…if he ever had any parties…he’s so sombre!), but I’ve got to admit, a couple of weeks at home have got me thinking differently. For a start there’s actually a lot going on in Sligo right now. The recession seems to have frightened all the local entrepreneurs/creative types into action; every week there’s some odd festival happening or a market or a gig. This weekend the ongoing event was the Cairde festival, an arts, music and theatre job staged in different locations all over town. One of the shows had immediately excited our interest- ‘Cirque de Legume’- our interpretation was that people dressed as vegetables would perform circus type acts. Now on a normal day I reckon most people would be curious to see such a spectacle, but we were particularly eager given the group’s past fascination with the theme of vegetables (see 2007-the vegetables from space party).

So tickets were bought and on Saturday night we converged upon McGarrigles to see delightful displays of vegetable virtuosity. Well we were short changed on the costumes- instead of dressing up as vegetables the two circus members came on stage with a basket of them and used them to perform typical circus acts: a cabbage lion was tamed; a knife thrower flung a chilli dagger at his companion, a lady peeling an onion while dancing around provocatively and leering at the crowd made for an eye-watering strip tease.

Did I like it? Hmmm. It was obvious from the opening minutes that in order to enjoy the show the audience would need to suspend all disbelief and take joy in all the weird and hilarious stunts the Cirque’s stars had to offer. Unfortunately it wasn’t always easy to remain convinced. The male performer was fantastic, I had no difficulty accepting him in every guise he offered us- animal trainer, circus horse, magician. However his female partner let him down. While she showed flashes of genius (see above strip tease, we laughed until the onion in the air made us cry) for the most part she just didn’t seem at ease. They are appearing at a couple of other venues across the country so check them out, I wasn’t 100% mad about them (on top of everything else the show is very short) but it’s still a pretty unique performance, I mean how often do you see two people make a star out of a cabbage? Follow them around on this yoke if yeh want to see them elsewhere http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cirque-de-Legume/363324652563

Cairdeas Festival also gave us a free day of gigs on the Sunday at the Peace Park and even with the festival over McGarrigles is still a brilliant spot, after being away last Summer I’d forgotten how much I used to love going there, the atmosphere is really relaxed, the people are of the very soundest sort and it opens late. After Cirque de Legume on Saturday we enjoyed these guys there for free http://www.myspace.com/thissideupireland, and in a stroke of pure genius the bar had them play in the smoking area, which is the most fun area of any pub/club anyway. Definite win for Sligo!

Sea Sessions

7 Jul

Just arrived home after Sea Sessions in Bundoran, quite the magnificent weekend! Myself and a couple of friends managed to get jobs in the Bavaria bar through a fortunate connection (thanks Liv!) and the plan was to work as many hours as possible, sacrificing fun in order to fund future endeavours. Luckily the weekend didn’t work out quite like this.. Instead of long days behind the bar I had shifts starting at 8,5 and 7, which meant my days were spent taking in all Fundoran and the surrounding areas have to offer. Saturday afternoon we was marvellous. A bracing swim at the beach in front of the festival arena. Swimming at Rosses Point makes you forget that a dip in the sea usually involves waves, so we went a bit mad playing in them-multiple bikini tops being lost in the process…or rather one was blown off by the force of the water, multiple times. After we started to get headaches from diving head first into walls of water we headed back to shore and went to the amusements where we won enough tickets for a ping pong ball. We declined this fabulous prize and ran around with our tickets like big shots instead. Then a round of Twisters were eaten and it was back to work. Sunday swimming was even better- we made the journey to Mullaghmore and I jumped off the pier there for the first time. My legs actually kind of locked when I looked down so I had to just lean forward and kind of semi fall to make myself jump the first time, but after that normal leg use resumed.

So daytime at Sea Sessions was full of healthy wholesome outdoor fun, other folks who were that way skilled went on surf outings to Tullan and other such beaches. Work at the bar added even further to the brilliance. I realised about half an hour into my first shift that it was the best job ever- the crowd were incredibly entertaining to serve. Girls dressed as bananas serenaded us, a rowdy Brazilian tried to set up inter-bar romance, excellent chats were had and there wasn’t a frown in sight. It helped that the rest of the staff were dead on. By night two the ice was fully broken and we were all socialising together. Every night after work we got two free pints each, plus we could have our way with any poured drinks that hadn’t been sold, and after several hours on our feet without food it didn’t take long to get into a carried away mood. Bonding activities included a trip on a fairly intimidating looking fun fair ride and about 4 hours of dancing in the staff tent after the festival ended Sunday. I’ve got to admit I was really sad to see the weekend over, if I weren’t planning on being somewhere far away next summer I’d make it my business to go to Sea Sessions again, and that’s without seeing a single band! Being at a festival in a town was a nice novelty too- when it got cold and wet and you were sick of crowding into tents for chats/shelter you had the luxury of escaping  to a bar for comfort. Best of both worlds really. The proximity to the sea didn’t exactly damage the experience either. All the activity and playing in the water during the day helped cancel out the negative effects of the messy nights.

After Sea Sessions (and yet another epic Rory Gallagher) I’m starting to look at  at festivals in Ireland differently and until I am set for life moneywise I really don’t reckon I’d venture to Oxegen or Electric Picnic again. Ok the acts at the smaller festivals may not measure up, but the adventures and the people certainly do, and isn’t that about 70% of the reason you go anyway? I would be really interested in going to a festival on the scale of Electric Picnic, with bands of that standard, which took place in a town. That’s something I’d happily pay my 245 quid for.

THE RORY GALLAGHER INTERNATIONAL TRIBUTE FESTIVAL- my highlights

2 Jul

The Rory Gallagher festival has always been a bit special.  When I try to explain its charm to people from far away who’ve never been I can never quite convey (or indeed remember) what exactly it is that makes it such ridiculous fun, I mean on paper a weekend of tribute acts playing various stages in a tiny Donegal town might not sound like a must experience. But then you arrive and you spend a few hours in the company of all the folks who make their way there every year and it comes back to you- because it’s not the music, or the blatant drinking on the streets, or the illegal off licence hours that make it fun-it’s the people: all the mad, hilarious, easy going, uncommonly friendly types going seem to be in Ballyshannon  come the June bank holiday and it gives the weekend this really perfect atmosphere, like nothing can go wrong and all you can have is adventures. I’m aware that this talk is making me sound like the ‘cake of rainbows’ girl from Mean Girls but honestly this is what the festival delivers. And I mean to add to the paradisey feel of it all it’s on right before the Leaving Cert so the weather ALWAYS  delivers.

All of this means that every year is fairly guaranteed to be a laugh but 2010 was particularly choice. It started on Wednesday, we arrived Thursday, planning to drink a few cans and proceed home on the bus before returning with our camping gear the following day. This was always going to be a bit of a fantasy plan. There was no way we were going to leave Thursday night. After a few hours of pleasant chat on the banks of the river and a bit of dancing to a tribute band we decided to spend the night in a friend’s car…in the car park of Bundoran beach.  At about 4 in the morning I was the unwitting star of my best friend’s very first attempt at an arty photo shoot, her method mainly consisted of following me around the beach (I was bopping up and down while wrapped in a duvet)  and taking sneaky snaps (to be uploaded some day I hope..).

After a quick trip home Friday morning we returned with a tent and the means to stay 2 nights. The absolute brilliance began in earnest at this stage. Putting up our tent in the dark and not having huge amounts of success we were rescued by Paul, a Dublin type and tent expert who knew before even getting a good look at all the bits and bobs how our tent should look and the exact steps we needed to follow to get it looking that way. Paul’s miraculous appearance was a perfect example of the fantasticosity of Ballyshannon, no sooner did we run into trouble with tent erection than we had a saviour! then it was off to town for sneaky cans and chats with people I hadn’t seen in years (and some I’d never seen before) before a return to the camp site and the commencement of my favourite festival activity- a wander and a gander. In other words a lap of the campsite in which myself and Paul (my willing tent erection assistant from earlier) targeted people we thought looked like a laugh and accosted them for chats/cigarettes/the exchange of cans. The wander and gander provided as always a merry few hours entertainment, ending with a very lighthearted discussion on the ethics of catch and release fishing.

Saturday we started early, by noon I was sipping Bulmers on the hill in Ballyshannon and dancing like mad to this lady

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgo30RxdMrQ&feature=related

the Mirenda Rosenberg Jazz band, Miss Rosenberg herself, as you can see was fairly electric to watch. Fantastic voice and confidence even girls were finding pretty irresistible…After that it was back to the campsite for chats and bants til my Broney showed up again and we made our way to town for evening two, the highlights of which I can summarise thus:

1. Being assaulted with face paint by my sister and her very drunk friends

2.Running into an auld skiing acquaintance and talking to him in an overly excited, high pitched manner for twenty or so minutes

3.Going on the big mental upside down type fun fair ride

The camp site didn’t let us down in terms of eejiting either, the early hours of Sunday were passed with a large group of Monaghan fellows (and one Dublin type) who had that lovely bordertown sense of humour- cynical and insult based- and educated us on the finer points of a Brazilian jujitsu move known as ‘triangling’. Yep as their poor lightweight Dublin friend began to fade the lads implemented the triangle- a stranglehold where you cut off breathing in the neck with your knees(!)- in order to help him pass out. Needless to say this was an unexpected development but the Monaghan lads talked about it as if it were as run-of-the-mill an action as pouring a cup of tea…It added a lovely hint of the bizarre to dawn.

The final hours at Ballyshannon were spent recovering in our spacious 2 door tent. After telling the girls all about the amazing 5 euro pizzas you can get made up in Ballyshannon Centra (one of my favourite Centras ever and conveniently located at the stop for the camp site shuttle bus) and Bronagh and I ventured off at about ten to get one only to find the pizzza oven isn’t switched on til one, so instead it was chicken fillet rolls, Roy of the Rovers, apple juice and Caramellos (I know-ewww but Kate likes them!). Several golden quotes were uttered including ‘a ham-induced coma’ in reference to the expected ill effects of eating the packet ham we had left out in the sun, which now more closely resembled bacon, ‘phonely’-for when you have no texts and your phone is lonely and well…many more I cannot remember because I took too long about writing this all down.

We finished off the weekend with a trip to sunny Rossnowlagh beach and a 99. A postcard ending to a perfect weekend. I won’t be going next year- I’ll be far away unfortunately, but if you’re in the country at all there is no excuse, the Rory Gallagher festival is not to be missed-I defy you to go and not have fun there!

tuning

24 May

I don’t know if this applies to all Irish people but I always get a massive stab of pride when i see anybody from Ireland winning fame/acclaim abroad. It doesn’t matter whether or not I actually believe they’re insanely talented it’s just a nice affirmation, evidence that we as a country can compete with the best of them. You know, the states that have had Renaissances and won loads of wars and built pyramids…those guys.

Now and again though, somebody (or a band of somebodies) who is genuinely cause for excitement will emerge in Ireland. Somebody like the Rags. In that case it’s not just the status of the nation that has me hoping they’ll succeed. It’s justice. Yep, the idea that a band this brilliant might not get recognition, approval, exaltation in any country besides our own is to my mind absolutely offensive to right and reason.

So, if you happen to be reading this (as I’m sure a million,. billion people are, even at this very moment) give them a listen

http://vimeo.com/10873369

tell your friends. Oh and if you’re gonna be about Dublin, head down to their album launch on the 29th. The Rags are amazing, Recognise the Rags!