THE community of Carrigaholt are hoping to secure the honour of hosting the very first ‘virtual’ festival, after Covid-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the 30th annual Oyster and Traditional Music Festival.
Disappointment at the axing of the event, which was set to be all the more memorable to celebrate three decades, sparked a bright idea for Annabel McMahon who had been tasked with the PR and marketing. Annabel, who runs a digital marketing company in Carrigaholt, said the idea of going virtual quickly snowballed: “We were really so sad that nothing was happening when normally there would have been such a huge build-up to the festival,” she explained. “Last Friday, I contacted the organising team and asked them what they thought about creating a virtual festival on-line. They said, ‘why not?’ and so by 11am, I’d put the call out on Facebook to all of the performers who would normally be here to send their videos.”
A outage of the social media platform meant that the idea looked unlikely to bear fruit, but while Annabel and the committee resigned themselves to re-posting highlights of the festivals of previous years, word of the online event was spreading by other means.
“Facebook was down for a couple of hours, which was a bit of a spanner in the works,” Annabel said. “We were sourcing old photos of previous festivals and thought that that might be that. In the meantime, the festival committee were still putting the call out, and that really got things going. I created a YouTube channel on Saturday and by Sunday night, we had more than 40 different performers contributing and they’re still doing that. Everything is on YouTube, so someone can sit down for an hour and watch the performances.”
While acknowledging that nothing can really replace the atmosphere of live music and oyster shucking, Annabel noted that the virtual performances allow the audience to really focus on what they are watching: “The quality of the singing and the dancing is just amazing and without the normal background sounds you might have in real life, you can really focus on the performances and the incredible talent that the festival attracts. I’m thinking of someone like Keeva Corry for example who sent a video of herself dancing in a field and it was just brilliant and so natural.”
The response to Carrigaholt Virtual Festival on YouTube and the Carrigaholt County Clare page on Facebook is steadily growing. “We haven’t quite gone viral at this point,” said Annabel. “We do hope we might be the first community in Ireland to hold a virtual festival though. We’ve had such a lovely response with comments from as far away as Canada and Australia. It’s not surprising when you consider the amazing talent of the people who perform at the festival and the fact that people love to come to Carrigaholt. It really has the most amazing community.”