It’s been nearly a fortnight since I set out for Townlands Carnival in Macroom, Co Cork and, honestly, I’ve needed the entire time to recover. I can safely say it was, without a doubt, one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to!
It’s hard to quantify a festival in terms of the craic but I can definitely give a solid 10/10 for effort on the part of the organisers, volunteers and staff who ensured that the weekend went off without a hitch, even despite the rain and the mud (a quintessential Irish festival is right!)
We left Galway at 2PM on Friday, a full hour and a half behind schedule because a certain someone wasn’t ready (I’ll mention no names but she knows who she is) and arrived onsite just as it started to drizzle, contrary to what the weather forecast had promised. Unpreturbed, we unpacked the car, collected our wristbands and headed for the site. Tents were perched between huge flagpoles on a grassy bank so we put all our camping knowhow to use and chose a spot on high ground near a landmark. All those years in the Girl Guides had not gone to waste. The rain was getting steadily heavier so it was imperative we get the tent up as quickly impossible. It was a red and grey jobbie from Argos (currently reduced to €95 and I’d highly recommend it) and it lasted the whole weekend without too much damage which is more than I can say for the 8 man tent next to us which blew down within an hour of being put up. Whether it was the weather or user error, I couldn’t possibly say!
Myself and Shelby facepainted and ready to go.
We spent the Friday night pottering around the stages, determined to get a few decent pictures before darkness descended. I had been speaking to PR Manager Dawn Kelly earlier in the week about what we could expect from this years festival and her enthusiasm was electrifying. The only thing I could compare her to the parent of a small child on Christmas Eve night. The parent knows exactly what is in store when the child unwraps the present and Dawn was no different. She had spent days onsite marvelling at the stages and the sets and was jsut dying to show it off to the punters.
Jerry Fish in full swing, Mainstage, Friday.
To their credit, the guys in charge of the set design knocked it out of the park. The site was set up to mimic an old saloon town, complete with French shutters and swining doors. The top area of the stages had the SubAtomic Stage, a large Castle with a tent nestled in behind which belted out some of the most relentless techno I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, the Cirque du Freakout which was populated by ‘freaks’ in costumes ranging from pigs snouts to Indiana Jones whips and the obligatory feather boas. There was also the Riddim Shack catering for the ska/reggae/jungle/drum n bass aficionados.
Cirque du Freakout Tent, Townlands Carnival 2016
Further down, beneath the instantly recognisable Townlands banner was the town centre where we found the Main Stage, the Bank building which was a cleaverly disguised mixing deck for the Main Stage, the Minus Stage and Cocktail Bar (the daquiris were DIVINE), the Gramaphone Disco which was belting out the classics throughout the weekend and the ideal place to pop into for a quick boogie, the Village Hall and last but not certainly not least the Sibin Stage.
Fugitive Dreams, Gramaphone Disco and The Bank mix deck Townlands Carnival 2016.
I feel like the Sibin Stage deserves an honourable mention for the sheer amount of work and imagination that went into it. It also had the advantage of being the only stage that you could bring your own beer to so there was a constant crowd there mingling and drinking before dispersing into the night. I think I summed it up perfectly when I said on my Instagram account that the Sibin Stage looked like a fairy had vomited pink and glitter all over a clearning in the forest. Every branch within an asses roar of the place had streamers, windchimes, skulls and paper lanterns dangling from them. Of the seven stages, ths Sibin and the Main Stage were the only unroofed ones so as the weekend got wetter, the decor did take a biteen of a battering. On Sunday, a maze made of cloth tunnels was errected, still not quite sure if it was for the adults or the kids but I had a go anyway! Musically, the Sibin Stage was where it was at and I still have not recovered from missing Saint Sister playing on Saturday, not Sunday as I thought (D’oh!!) although I did catch some other acts (Cula Bula, the Lachikos and Strange Attractor) which made up for it!
Sibin Stage, Townlands Carnival 2016.
Unfortunately, I missed a lot of the Saturday due to work commitments ie Blackalicious, Saint Sister, Dirty Dubsteppers, Daithi and Sim Simma but by the time I arrived back on site on Sunday morning I was ready to make up for lost time and hit it hard. As is usualy the way with playing catch up, this resulted in copious amounts of alcohol being consumed and a serious blank lasting a few hours later in the evening. I’m pretty annoyed I can’t remember the fire display late Sunday night but, thankfully, Youtube to the rescue. At this stage I’ve watched this clip enough times to fool myself into thinking that I was in fact there and fully coherent. Lies we tell ourselves..
Townlands Carnival Fire Show, Video Credit Martin King.
The rain did not let up on the Sunday and the mud was nearly knee deep but people partied on regardless. I definitely saw several mad bastards full on mudwrestling and spirits were high in spite of the bad weather.
Personal highlights were definitely the Sibin Stage, Meadbh O’Connor killing it stone dead at the SubAtomic Stage, The Village Green and the craic with all of the Cork Mafia trying to explain the difference between West Cork and the rest of the county. All in all, it was a brilliant weekend and I will definitely be back for the next installment.