I’ve been offline for 3 days and it feels like an eternity. With no access to the internet time has somehow managed to expand in a strange way and most wonderful way. I feel like I’ve been on holiday. The reason for missing my online duties is that around this time of year I spend more hours working in the physical world as opposed to this world of binary, pixels and code. The summer months are the most active months for me as I’m often away running festivals or markets – working in a physical space, on the ground, getting shows on the road.
This weekend I was down in the very west of Cork – on the invitation of the West Cork Mental Health Forum – in a beautiful village called Ballydehob. The event I helped organise was a Mad Pride Ireland family fun day, part of a larger operation that seeks to tackle the stigma of mental illness through laughter and joy. The day is like many other family fun days; a stage for bands, hot food stalls, children’s puppet and mask making workshops, facepainters, clowns and walkabouts. All free, all fun and if the weather holds, a great family occasion.
The event was a joy to work on. Mad Pride always is as we make it as much a family event for us, the organisers, as we do for the people turning up for the event. We always make sure to travel the day before, stay in a hotel, eat, drink and have a good laugh together. This weekend was especially sweet as we made sure we were in Bantry – which is near Ballydehob and where we were staying for the night - on time and parked at a bar counter for the Heineken European Rugby Cup Final between Leinster and Northhampton and what a game that was!
Aside from the drink, food, rugby and good banter there is always something special about getting up early on a Sunday morning in rural Ireland and setting up an event in a field (although in this case it was a well groomed field that functioned as a playground) The weather tends to be blustery and unpredictable, the church bells can be heard pealing loudly over the parish, the birds fill the empty skies with their song and incessant chatter, tractors dawdle by, people stop for a gawk, nobody is in a rush to do anything and everything has its own pace, a slow uneven and haphazard one. These are my favourite events, the ones in smaller towns. They’re hard work but somehow there’s an easiness about the set up that you just can’t replicate in an urban area.
Mad Pride itself is a great event – it seeks to find new ways of addressing the mental health problems many people face; depression, schizophrenia and so on. It’s an advocate for change, a beacon of light to all those who feel ashamed, feel stigmatised, can’t say anything in fear that they will be shunned by their community. At the end of every event, John McCarthy, the founder of the organisation, talks to those present about the importance of love, hope and freedom from fear. It is these simple things that we must hold on to if we are to be a better community, a more committed and accepting community.
I have done many events throughout my career but never have I felt so proud after a gig as I do when I’m doing a mad pride gig. Why? Because I know, we all know, that we have done something more than give people a free afternoon out. We have created a space, a vibe (for that’s what it is) in which people feel free to open up and love and respect one another, give of each other and that is a special thing. Last Sunday in Ballydehob was no different. That sense of belonging, that feeling of love was tangible and present on every face that walked out of that small playground/field and that’s what it’s all about.
If you have a minute why not check out more about mad pride and what it does and if you’re around Cork City on Sunday 5th June we have our biggest day of the year in Fitzgerald’s Park with special guests Kila playing for us on the main stage as well as loads of other activities, music and food. We’ll also be in Tullamore on Sunday 14th August
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