I was in Baltimore, West Cork for the fiddle fair over the weekend. Well, actually only the one day. Myself, wife and baby went down on Sunday. It was our first time at the festival and first time to Baltimore. A beautiful place. For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to visit the South – Western most tip of Ireland it is a splendid sight. A small village at the end of the road. Of all roads. You can go no further. A beautiful sky, a view of Sherkin Island, fields teetering on the edge of the sea. All hills, nothing flat.
It was a fine day, full of good cheer with hundreds of people drinking pints, eating oysters, crab, prawns, chips. Dogs half comatosed on the pavements, kids running around, babies crying, adults bleary eyed from the night before, musicians all over the place with instrument cases slung over their backs. We had chips and stout, saluted and nodded to people we knew in that unassuming, almost guilty way that Irish people do when they recognise someone; a flick of the head, eyes quickly moving away, moving on, elsewhere, anywhere. All very awkward, everyone wanting to move on as if some bad blood was spilt somewhere, somehow, sometime. No one wanting to stop and chat but everyone knowing that they have too. It’s a cultural imperative. It’s a tribal ritual. And everyone knows the opening gambit;
“Grand, so you here for the weekend?”
“Ah no just for the day, thought we might you know, why not”
“Ah yeah, why not”
And on it goes until one of you figures a way of getting out of there.
For those of you not from Ireland if you ever get into a small talk situation with a paddy you’re screwed. But let me give you one piece of advice if you do find yourself in that predicament always repeat what they’ve just said and then add on a bit of your own. It adds colour. Keeps the conversation going until hopefully your mobile starts ringing, your baby starts crying or the sky suddenly falls on your head.
We did see some music but what I loved most about it was the unregulation of the festival. I’m so used to having to be sure of this and satisfying that, safety statements, event management reports, security, ambulances, police, fencing everything off, making sure there’s no possible way on earth anyone in any state of mind or health could slip, fall, create havoc. So used to having tight time schedules with no margin of error, crew members with clipboards, names ticked, duties done, job completed, satisfactorily. No one dead. Imagine that.
Where’s the fun in that? Lost. Tied up in red tape and chucked away, flushed down the toilet along with all the other fun and games I used to have at festivals, working and playing. It was clear from being in Baltimore over the weekend that a relaxed and joyful festival atmosphere – and the same goes for all venues, areas, places in which people gather to commune – is created by those that have control over all areas of their space. Those that don’t have to worry that the distance between this and that might, however unlikely, cause offense, damage, trouble. It was so gratifying, so good to feel part of an event. An event that let me in, took me in with open arms – didn’t try to trick, con, swindle, sell me cool latest trend in thing to die for best thing yet. It just was as it was. Open and unafraid to be.
Well done to all and sundry and especially Declan McCarthy who runs it