THE festival calendar for East Clare has suffered another major blow with the cancellation of the Feakle Festival, due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Organisers said they decided to cut this year’s event – which would ordinarily attract thousands to the region at the height of the summer season – “with deep regret,” in order to minimise the risk to the general public.
Already, the legendary Spancilhill Fair has been called off, with organisers deciding that they could not guarantee social distancing at the event which draws thousands annually on the now immortalised date of June 23. A number of smaller community festivals, including the Bodyke May Bank Holiday Weekend, have also been shelved, with hopes of postponing some of them as the government’s road map for the re-opening of public life begins to unfold.
In Feakle, a world-class programme of traditional music had been under wraps since February and there is widespread disappointment that the hugely popular festival won’t go ahead this year. “Our priority had to be the health of the community,” said Gary Pepper. “We have to be guided by whatever the public health team says.” The event, which brings leading musicians to the village for workshops, sessions, céilís and concerts also takes around €50,000 to run. “We would have needed a good attendance of concerts to contribute to costs,” Gary explained. “Where you might have had 400 in a venue, social distancing would dramatically cut that number. We had to look at what’s safe and what’s viable. There’s the bigger picture too, the festival brings a major boost to the local economy. We had a lot to weigh up.”
In Mountshannon, organisers of the annual Arts Festival have had to use all of their creative skills to make contingency plans so that at least some events can run, albeit in a different guise. The festival’s target date is May 22 to June 1 and Chairperson Shulagh Colleran said a revised programme will be circulated shortly. “We have been working with a group from Galway called Spontaneous Theatre,” explained Shulagh, “with a view to holding a storytelling night. Instead of that, we’re now asking people to send us seven-minute pieces for radio on the theme of ‘water’. These can include stories from the seas, streams, rivers lakes and beyond. The programme will have a selection of True Personal Stories, Tall Tales and Myths, all to fit the theme. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, May 14 and we’re looking for people to join us for a special broadcast on Scariff Bay Community Radio on Saturday, May 30. We’re very grateful to the station for their support.”
Another event planned involved a collaboration between dramatist Timmy Creed and hurler Diarmuid Lyng. “Diarmuid had really interesting views on living through Irish and conserving nature and Timmy’s play ‘Spliced’ focuses on hurling. They’ve been collaborating since March and now we’re hoping to get them together on the air in late May.”
Entries to a photography competition on the theme of ‘Identity’ will be reviewed after the May 1 closing date, with an exhibition to go on display in the windows of the former Mountshannon Hotel. “We also have a sound installation planned with a Czech artist,” said Shulagh. “It will called The First Sanctuary of Free Sounds, so we’re looking at ways to make that work. Local artists really need our support and we’ll be doing that as much as we can, while abiding by the restrictions.”
Known for attracting high-profile commentators and performers, the Scariff Harbour Festival is another highlight of the season, drawing huge attendances annually. Whether or not the event will be able to go ahead from July 30 to August 2 remains unclear. “We have quite a bit of work done,” said Harry O’Meara. “Musical acts are booked. At the moment, we can only wait and see and we should be in a position to announce a decision later this month.”