LISDOONVARNA is hoping to cash in on the pink economy by holding a gay and lesbian weekend as part of the world-renowned Matchmaking Festival this September. The North Clare village will welcome LGBT tourists in search of love to The Outing, which opens this year’s programme.
Drag High-Queen of Ireland, Panti launched the 150-year-old festival last week and announced that the historic festival begins with a lesbian and gay weekend.
“I do love interfering in other people’s love lives, so I can’t wait to get to Lisdoonvarna and start meddling. It’s going to be great craic and I expect to be buying quite a few ostentatious wedding hats afterwards” said Panti, host of The Outing.
Many Lisdoonvarna residents and local business owners have already voiced their enthusiasm for what they see as a welcome new twist on the generations-old festival, which looks set to bring a new sector of tourists to the area.
Fourth generation matchmaker, Willie Daly, will be present during The Outing’s weekend and feels ready to bring some new couples together. “Matchmaking has always been about love,” he said.
The Outing comprises a weekend package of hotel accommodation and full entertainment schedule, fusing old Ireland with gay club life as céilís sit next to drag shows and tea dances lead into late-night DJ sets, along with day trips and outdoor activities.
Event directors, Eddie McGuinness and Dónal Mulligan have worked with club events for several years and say the unique and novel fusion on offer is what enticed them to put together The Outing.
“Traditional Irish events like céilí dances have had it right for hundreds of years,” said Dónal. “They’re a perfect way to meet new people in a lively, comfortable and fun atmosphere. We’re taking the best of old Ireland – music, dancing and matchmaking – and putting it together with the variety of entertainment on offer in the LGBT community and friends. We think it’s going to be a very effective combination.”
Eddie and Dónal are working together with BelongTo, whose work they hope to raise awareness of and funding for through The Outing.
BelongTo is an organisation that assists LGBT young people in Ireland by building support networks and creating educational campaigns on issues like homophobic bullying in schools.
BelongTo is currently in the process of setting up regional support groups for young people in many rural towns across the country and has already seen other similarly warm receptions toward the gay community in other small towns.
“As Willie Daly says, at the end of the day it’s about love – that what the matchmaking festival has always been about,” said Eddie.
“Ireland is leading the world on a lot of gay issues and hopefully we will have gay marriage soon, so the time is right for something like this to take place.
“We have a five-year plan for this event. This year we are looking at attracting people from Ireland and Britain but this is going to become a very big international event,” Eddie added.
“We are trying to put a different twist on the festival. It is going to be the same as any other matchmaking weekend – we will have entertainment, music and dancing,” said Marcus White, owner of Hydro Hotel and Lisdoonvara Matchmaking Festival organiser.