Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Festival Of World Cultures 2009

A wonderful Sunday

I am sorry I missed the Saturday part of the festival but had another engagement.

Even for the Sunday my only interest was the storytelling show. I was concerned that if I arrived too early I would have been bored and quickly become anxious about the crowds scrambling for good views, food and getting to the toilets.

Claire was not keen to even consider going to the festival for these and similar reasons.

My Sunday started slow as through Saturday I had consumed more scotch than I have done for a long, long time. I went off for lunch at Avoca with Claire with a plan to “have a peak” at the festival before going to the storytellers.

After lunch Claire dropped me off outside Dun Laoghaire, as close as she could drive too, and this was about 4:00 pm. Could I find great entertainment before the storytelling commencing at 7:30 pm? Also was it going to stay dry?

Arriving at the Festival

Top priority was getting my ticket for the storytelling …. but where?

It seemed obvious to go to the venue and ask.

Just a little down the road from where Claire dropped me off a festival staff member provided me with a program, a very substantial program free of charge. I was instantly impressed with the information, maps, and terrific diagrams to quickly identify what was on where.

I noticed that getting to the Royal Marine Hotel, the venue of the storytelling, I could pass through The People’s Park and the stage in front of the Kingston Hotel.

People’s Park got me into the festival spirit instantly! There was a small dance stage, a performance stage, loads of children’s activities and a lots of organic food stands. It was easy to get around, no congestion of people, lots of families, lots of people out with beautiful dogs, and people of all ages from babies right through to folks who must have been over 100. Seniors were loving this as much as the young. Also, being a World Cultures event the people were of all colours and shapes along with their traditions of colour. This was an instant sense of world community, a sanctuary where everyone dropped barriers and differences to share a spirit. Lovely!

After a quick flash around at what was on and not paying a lot of attention to detail I hastened towards the Royal Marine Hotel. Passing Kingston Hotel stage, a south american band was playing, but I did not get details of name and country of origin, but atmosphere was great and moving through was also pleasant.

Alas, Royal Marine was the venue, but not the ticket sellers. I had to go to the Festival Box Office at the Pavilion, another 5 to 10 mins walk.

Outside Royal Marine Hotel, on its green, a load of folks were dancing to the Mr Whippy mobile disco, an old Mr Whippy ice cream van converted into a disco machine. I had heard of this, lots of good words, and it reminded of an old movie starring Lenny Henry who did the same to create a mobile 60s disco, the movie came out in the 80s. Everywhere he went with this, people in their 60s turned up for the disco :-)

After a few minutes fascinated by Mr Whippy I quickly headed for the Box Office. Fortunately no queue, and some tickets left. I was all set, now to explore some festival.

Heading for the main stage

I did not really look at the program look to see who was on, and later wish I had done, but just took some note of the places where something was on and planned a circular walking route that would get me back to Royal Marine Hotel for 7:00 pm to ensure a good seat for the 7:30 pm storytelling.

From the Pavilion I headed along the coast wall. along Queens Road, shut off from traffic, that featured a long row of craft stands featuring many countries of the world. It was wonderful to see the crafts unique to a country such as the Kenya wood carvings, Ethiopia bead work, Japanese rice paper work, and Norwegian had carved walking sticks. I hooted at Ireland’s contribution, racks of imported clothes and euro-store “junk” items in plastic containers with large “Clearance Sale” signs – and people were buying ????

There was a wonderful down to earth, riff rich rock and roll busking band putting all they could into their performance along with their hand written 10 euros CDs for sale sign. Very popular with the onlookers.

Next, the Newtownsmith car park was a sensory gauntlet of small gourmet kitchens from around the world, all affordably priced and not too long queues. It was tempting to order now, but my ear was getting a sound from the main stage, and it sounded good.

Twas now into Newtownsmith Green Park, an expansive sea shore park with a very obvious main stage with hi tech lighting, great sound and the usual modern huge video screens. The band on was a French techno reggae, ska kind of band that sounded like a cross between UB40 and one of my favourites, Peatbog Faeries, but without the bagpipes. I found them mesmerizing. The band is called Babylon Circus.

I was there about 10 to 15 minutes, but with the expectation of seeing and hearing more I left that stage and headed towards Clarinda Park. On my way I took some photos of people dancing to Babylon Circus, including a gent on a yellow bicycles jumping up and down to the rhythm.

Americana

It took me about 10 minutes to get to Clarinda Park, but here is was all themed North and South America. Lots of American cuisines from burgers, ribs, buffalo wings, southern chicken and tex-mex from the north through to the colourful beans, taco, salsa, burrito etc. options of the south.

On the main stage was the Mirenda Rosenburgh bluegrass band, excellent fun loved by all around. I stayed there about 15 minutes enjoying the fun and sun.

Still plenty to look at, wish I could have stayed for more.

Getting Hungry

My intent was to continue my planned circuit of park events, with the Moran Park being my next destination, but I noticed a sign saying the People’s Park was to close at 6:00 pm, and it was almost that time. I wanted to buy a bag of organic food shopping.

Alas, once in People’s Park i was first distracted by a drums, clowns and bellydance performance. I cannot find the details of what that was, but it was a combination of fun and the erotic. Next, even more distraction from the main stage in this park where a wrapper, that I could not see listed in the guide, was teaching the audience how to rap dance – sexily. Not only a good teacher, but very funny, kind of Lenny Henry style, again.

Just as I remembered that I came here to get produce, the park security was ushering us out.

6:15 pm now, and remembering I wanted to complete my flash festival experience by 7:00 pm changed my route to head to the International Food Traders on Newtownsmith Green car park. I thought I would eat then head back to visit Horan Park before going to the Storytelling evening.

Ahhh! Oumou Sangare !!!

I chose to pick up a Japanese vegetarian dish cooked in a delightful scented fruit sauce. As I started to eat on the sea wall, and watch some buskers, my ears picked up magic music coming from the Newtownsmith Green main stage !!!

I still had not looked at the list of performers at this festival, just destinations. Had I seen in advance that Oumou Sangare was on I would have planned this so different. I had already been in awe of her and her band on Late Night With Jools Holland.

I rushed up to the stage and was amazed to get very close to the band. Yes this magic miracle of African rhythms, chants, weaving kora, enchanting flute and more immediately took me to another place. I was so, so moved.

Oumou, her chorus girls and the band oozed a charisma I rarely experience from a band.

I stayed there until 7:30 pm, the first hour of her performance, before a mad dash to the Royal Marine Hotel to see if I could catch any kind of seat at the Storytellers show.

Tell me a story

I had no need to worry.

Not only was the storyteller’s event starting late, but in true Irish politeness, though most of the audience were in the hall, most of the front two rows of seats were almost empty. I grabbed one !!!

What I also found remarkable was the audience looked like the entire audience of storytelling with Robin Williamson at Farmleigh House last July. There were lots of hellos and handshakes from so many people i had forgotten names of, but they knew mine.

That was a great evening.

Jack Lynch kicked off a couple of short monologue quite Irish stories.

Eloho Rose Egwuterai, from the Delta state of Nigeria, shared an African version of Hans Christian Anderson’s Emperor’s New Clothes, but her story was much fuller and more meaningful. Somehow I believe it has origin to what Anderson had picked up. One day, I’ll try a variation of that story connecting a Co. Sligo animal story. Eloho spoke this so beautifully, so fitting to her beautiful Nigerian accent.

Welshman Michael Harvey followed with a warriors tale of familiar contents but delivered with wonderful humour, improvisation and showing he was having a lot of fun sharing this with us.

Cork lady Kate Corkery, delivered a story almost as a one person play. She told us the story of Hairy Rochey, a sort of combo of Cinderella and Jack and The Beanstalk that travelled through a few Euro nations. Kate delivered this story through a remarkable change of accents, languages and facial expressions that seemed as if they could have told the story without words. A remarkable talent! Kate deserves her own TV show, perfect for filling a void in Irish TV comedy drama left since Father Ted and Killinaskully.

When the show was over, I knew there was so much joy from this afternoon that I was taking away, so I took it away quite quickly. I was savouring those moments rather than stopping to chat to others. The Dart rail station was only a couple of minutes away and the next dart train also only a couple of minutes away.

From then until now I am still embracing the joy of that whole afternoon, a beautiful colourful well run festival.

What did I miss?

All of Saturday, of course. Jane Birkin, Hotel Kiev, Dub Colossus, Kilfenora Ceili Band, Natty Wailer, Danu and more.

All of the events at Kingston Hotel, The Pavilion, Royal Marine Hotel Gardens, Harbour Plaza stage, Global Village in Moran Park, Cool Earth Eco Fair, Global Therapies Fair, and events at Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre.

All together the Festival Of World Cultures shared 28 stages and performance areas !!!

I only got to 10 of them. I hope I can be there longer next year. This is truly a kind of Glastonbury/Womad in Ireland.

Oumou Sangare was tops for me, followed quite closely by Kate Corkery.

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