MORE than 6,000 people flocked to North East Clare for the 35th Feakle Festival, which wrapped up, leaving audiences and organisers “exhausted but very happy”, last Monday (August 8).
After two years of virtual events, visitors from all over Ireland, Europe, the US and as far afield as Japan descended on the village for what has been described as “out of this world”.
Local publican and member of the organising committee, Gary Pepper, said any worries about competition with the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar were quickly set aside. “It seems that the word went around at the Fleadh that Feakle was hopping,” he said.
“So, lots of people left the Fleadh and came here and it really added to the event in terms of the quality of the music. We expected a good festival, but it was a bit like preparing for an All-Ireland final with the Fleadh up against us. It seems that, if the Fleadh hadn’t been on, we mightn’t have been able to cope at all with the level of interest in Feakle. As it was, we had at least 6,000 people here. I’ve never seen anything to compare with the goodwill, merriment and happiness this year. A lot of people were reluctant to go home and they’re already looking at how they’ll get back here next year.”
Fellow organiser, Councillor Pat Hayes agreed that this year’s event was one of the best ever. “The most wonderful people turned up,” he said. “The Festival was a paradise for musicians. We had worked to adjust things to take account of the Fleadh, but the feedback we got was that everyone was coming to Feakle, so we added a number of events and workshops.”
Councillor Hayes added that the economic benefit across East Clare was very welcome.
“Around 1,000 people bought tickets for events,” he said. “In terms of the hospitality and accommodation sectors, the boost is very significant. It was remarkable to see up to 80 camper vans arriving and people setting up their tents. This is far wider than just a weekend. Feakle is now an independent label. People know it and they love it and we’re already planning for next year. It all begins again in terms of booking artists and putting plans in place.”
Aoife Hayes had the demanding task of updating the festival’s social media channels, hot on the heels of helping with the development of a new website (feaklefestival.ie).
“I’m receiving photos and videos all the time and will be posting more of those so that people can look back on the festival,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see so many posts on people’s own accounts. This year’s festival has been unbelievable and a great success, thank God.”
Aoife’s personal highlights include the weekend concerts. “Those were on Friday and Saturday night and they were just exceptional,” she said.
“When you hear the applause and see the standing ovation at the end, you know you’ve done something right. The sessions were mighty too, because this is a festival where the musicians come and just take over. Once we put the plan in place, it becomes their festival. I’ve never seen the number of camper vans and tents, the place was alive. Everyone is talking about coming back next year. People are already booking their accommodation.”
Gary summed up the essence of the festival, saying the quality of the music sets Feakle apart.
“It’s also the fact that there is music on offer in the pubs here all-year round. People love Feakle. The quality on offer is immense.”
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 065 6864146.