WHEN word got out last June that the Ennis Trad Festival was to be postponed, there was widespread disappointment amongst Irish traditional musicians and fans. The shelving of the festival was yet another casualty of the economic downturn, it appeared.
A welcome U-turn occurred in September, however, when it was announced that Ennis Trad Festival would assume its usual slot in the events calendar, which this year takes place from November 5 to 9. Ironically, this year’s festival is bigger than ever before because, as festival organiser John Rynne explains, the local business community have united in support of a recession-busting festival.
“All businesses are really pulling together during the recession in what would normally be a quiet time during November. Guy Flouch, president of the Ennis Chamber, worked closely with us in generating renewed vigour and support. Ennis Town Council greatly increased its support also,” he said.
“There’s a realisation in the town and business community that by working with the festival, a voluntary organisation, that Ennis could make a go of putting on this major festival that will benefit all sectors,” he explained.
“That co-operation has come out of the recession. There’s a willingness for participating vintners, hoteliers, publicans and business people to put message out on a national level that the town is proud to have this festival and to make the most of it. It’s what impressed Guinness to return to supporting the festival in difficult times. For a change, it’s a good-news story which has come out of the recession,” he said.
Although there are no exact figures for revenue coming into the town on the back of previous festivals, John estimates that during the festival millions of much-needed euro flow into the area.
“We get a lot of people from all over the world who come over especially for the trad festival and stay around Ennis for the week. There are Japanese, American, Swedish – from all over really – and they provide a huge economic boost to all sectors of the town in terms of accommodation, restaurants, shops, pubs and taxis. Without doubt, there’s a huge spin-off. It’s no coincidence either – people are making a defiant attempt to shake off the misery of the recession and capitalise on goodwill on the huge number of musicians around the world,” added John.
With 33 of Ennis’ pubs playing host to sessions over the weekend (13 up on last year), quite literally, there’ll be music played morning, noon and night in the town over the five-day period of the festival. John Rynne says that this year, in particular, publicans are working closely with the organisers to make Ennis Trad Festival the best yet.
The new-found support has meant that the festival is in a healthier financial state than ever before and there are even more musicians and headline acts planned, including Angelina Carberry, Peter Carberry and Paul Meehan; At the Racket; Lúnasa; Tony McMahon and Frankie Gavin and the Alan Kelly Quartet.
Album launches have always been an important part of the festival and there are three on the programme over the weekend. John Gavin and his daughter Pauline Gavin-Callinan will launch their CD on the Friday night at the Auburn Lodge Hotel. This is a long-overdue recording from John, who was All-Ireland harmonica champion in his day. On Saturday evening, Carlow duo Dave Sheridan and Ciarán Somers will launch their new CD while flautist Steph Geremia will hold her CD launch on Sunday evening.
A new feature of this year’s festival will be ‘shuckin and jiving’ with Andrew McNamara, which promises to be a very different kind of trad disco, with tunes from Margaret Barry, Patsy Cline, the Tulla Céilí Band and many other surprise tracks. Andrew will be spinning discs at the Sanctuary on Thursday night, time-permitting, and in selected venues over the festival weekend.
And of course, Ollie Mullooly will be back with his own unique brand of trad disco at the Auburn Lodge on Saturday, November 7.
For the third year running, the céílí band competition will take place at the West County Hotel, with former winners The Corofin Céilí Band (2009) and Ceoltóirí an Mainistreach (2008) hoping for another title while newcomers, Ceoltóirí NAMA and the Inis Craggy Céílí Band have their sights firmly set on first prize. Three other cash prizes are also up for grabs on the night, which uniquely, allows audience members to vote for their favourite band, while four mystery adjudicators make their decision. So far, there are nine confirmed entrants for the competition, with festival organisers predicting one or two late entries.
There will also be masterclasses in a number of instruments and singing, a flute maintenance workshop and sean-nós and set-dancing workshops, along with a céilí with the Four Courts Céilí Band on the Sunday afternoon.
The trad table quiz will also be back this year and will take place in The Merchant Bar following the festival brunch on Saturday of the festival.
Ennis Trad Festival will be officially launched at the Temple Gate Hotel at 7pm on Thursday, November 5 by Áine Hensey, after which local band Moher will take to the stage. See www.ennistradfestival.com for more information.