East Clare is renowned for its music and passion for the arts but this year, the region’s celebration of them grew as two new music festivals were introduced.
The inaugural East Clare Fiddle Festival and Mountshannon Trad Weekend kicked off, while another festival made a comeback in Whitegate as the Dinny Ryan Cup returned with a host of activities centred on it.
Renowned guitarist and fiddle player Jed Foley got the wheels in motion for the inaugural East Clare Fiddle Festival last July, when his vision for a festival deigned specifically for fiddle players got underway in Feakle.
The festival was sandwiched between the P Joe Hayes festival in May and the Feakle Traditional Music Festival in August and proved popular even though it was the third to take place in the area during the summer.
The second inaugural festival added to the bill this summer in East Clare as the Mountshannon Trad Weekend ensured traditional music spread across the community.
The brainchild of Cliodhna Donnellan and Pauline Madden, the duo set about fulfiling local demand for more traditional music in the area.
Meanwhile, the community in Whitegate brought back the Dinny Ryan Cup last May. Building on the event, the festival included a production by the Whitegate Drama Group, a camogie blitz, fly fishing, singing and male queen of May competition, all culminating in the Dinny Ryan Cup.
Despite the increase in festivals in East Clare in a declining economy, it appeared that all events were able to hold their own.
Kicking off the dramatic season was the 63rd annual Clare Drama Festival, which saw a host of dramatic productions take to the Scariff stage in March. The festival received 30 applications, illustrating the vibrancy of the drama circuit and of the popularity of the Scariff venue.
Other staples in the area such as the PJoe Hayes Festival and The Iniscealtra Festival were once again big draws. The theme of the Iniscealtra Festival this year was resourcefulness, which was embraced in all aspects. The event brought a variety of visual art displays, live music performances and family fun days to the community of Mountshannon.
Meanwhile, the eighth annual Scariff Harbour Festival attracted some top names, with Mary Black giving an intimate and stellar performance in the Sacred Heart Church and Tuamgraney native. Author Edna O’Brien returned home for a candid interview with Professor Declan Kiberd. Other special guests in attendance included peace activist Roy Garland and cook Laura Kilkenny, while Aslan gave a live outdoor concert in the square. Scariff was put on the map nationally when Today FM DJ Phil Cawley broadcast live from the Fair Green.
Continuing the festivities in the region was the Feakle Festival, where highlights included Eddi Reader and a special tribute was paid to East Clare singer Robbie McMahon. Other attractions at the festival included the West Ocean String Quartet with Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, a Gala Concert with the Brock McGuire Band, Tony Linnane, Mick Conneelly, Jim O’Connor, Vincent Griffin, Mary Corry, Andrew MacNamara, Cormac Begley and Paddy Commane. Outdoor performances from the Flora Shantys and Rick Epping and Séamie O’Dowd attracted a large audience. Workshops were also popular this year, causing additional classes to be put in place.
Music continued to dominate into September as the Seamus Tansey headlined the fourth annual Tulla Traditional Music Festival. The Tulla event also boasted performances from musicians Catherine McEvoy, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Micheál Ó Raghallaigh, Vincent Griffin, Jed Foley, John Kelly and Brian Mooney.