Too often festivities are caught up in narrow, generic, commercial definitions. We tend to know what to expect from a music/arts/theatre festival, there is a pattern, a formula that’s followed often led by the sponsors, the state funders, the tourist board. This makes events and festivals hard to navigate, you need to be flexible, continually moving, finding new ways of presenting work, selling work, presenting work without losing your sense of priority for ultimately a festival is a platform on which the audience and artist/concept meet not a space for advertisers to sell products. And so it was that yesterday, Sunday, made for a very refreshing change. My wife, daughter and I took off to work in Blarney, County Cork at their annual town fundraising event. There there was to be no negotiation, no hair pulling over bureaucratic applications for one thing or another, no surveys from the tourist board to complete, no CPMs (cost per thousand; the value put on different forms of marketing material), advertising, performance indicators or any other rubbish. No, this was going to be old school.
Every year, the Blarney Town Council organises a fundraising day on the green in the centre of the village. Tents are put up, volunteers organised, tables and chairs borrowed, signs made, shows put together and favours called in. In our case we were the blow – ins, the newcomers. The committee had decided that a few carnival workshops would add to their festivities (and potentially lead onto more in the future) and so I was called and asked to organise it. We duly arrived – all nine of us – with boxes of art supplies and recyclable materials with the intention of making musical instruments and puppets with the kids and then having a parade at the end of the day.
Having never been there before we had no idea what to expect or how many people would turn up. On arrival we were shown to our tent, given a number of tables and chairs and got organised. I was on babysitting duties so myself and my daughter went for a look around. We ambled through a small food market, craft stalls and around bouncy castles, watched various dog show competitions (everything from the waggiest tail to the best dressed up), looked at model tractor exhibitions and funny races involving prams, gawped at a ferret in a hole betting competition (this involved putting a ferret into a large bin with nine holes cut out around the base. The idea was that you bet on which hole the ferret would come out of), a treasure hunt and a rubber duck derby in the local river. It was fantastic.
There was a plethora of people from the weeny to the ancient, all having a good time, relaxing, eating, sitting, lying down, running around and generally enjoying a day off on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The workshops went really well, everyone was busy for the four hours they had and the parade was brilliant. Okay, it wasn’t a Brazilian or Trinidadian lookalike but that’s not important. What was important was that everyone in the parade made something and got involved while everyone in the park clapped and smiled and laughed and cheered. All then went home having actively taken part in a communal celebration; they built bridges between each other and their place, they celebrated their community. And what is more important than that.
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