It’s taken me two months to finally post my report on the Flat Lake Festival. Well, what sort of words do an experience like this justice? None, honestly, but after wracking my brain for nearly 60 days on how to precisely capture these incredible three days I realized the answer was obvious: let excerpts my travel journal speak for me.
Background: When I knew my trip would be taking me to Ireland, I knew 3 things had to occur:
1) I had to stay in Cork
2) I had to eat at Paradiso Cafe (review here)
3) I had to find a totally authentic, local event/festival to attend
Number 1 & 2 go hand in hand but it was a thorough Google search that led me to The Flat Lake Festival (via an interview with a particular attendee from last year) It’s a low-key music and literary arts festival in a small, quiet border town on gorgeous property. It is put on by Kevin Allen and author Pat McCabe (The Butcher Boy & Breakfast on Pluto). Musicians, artists, poets, performance artists, and the like journey from all over Ireland to perform there. Attendees are welcome to camp on-site and even volunteer, like Steffie and I did.
Excerpts from my travel journal:
We hit up the Butty Barn and got Bulmers cider, took in the gorgeous scenery. We stayed up late listening to various music acts, warming by the campfire, meeting up on/off with our new friends + acquiring sleeping bags. Score!
After breakfast we took the garden walk along the Hilton Park grounds. Beautiful scenery – flowers, paths. There is a series of lakes but we could not seem to get to one.
We got a ride in a trailer hitched up to a quad and breezed up the back way through the artist camp + Kevin Allen’s backyard. We got dropped off at the production office and get out food vouchers and procure some organic lamb burgers. We watched Seven Days perform then went back to the tent to catch some winks before getting up again close to 9pm and heading to the main stage where we found our friends and sat with them for a while.
This night went a little better but I did have a cold spell and even noisier, more obnoxious camp neighbors blasting CCR. Now I love CCR but it’s not to be used as a weapon against peaceful sleep. Bastards. Once that finally ended I was able to sleep. I started to wake to the soft sound of raindrops hitting the outer tent. It was gentle like pebbles but then I remembered our gear sitting between the tents. Quickly, I got up and pulled them in. Stef roused us around 10am determined to make use of the crew showers.
We hung around a bit but it began to rain as we poked around – Steffie getting her Elderberry jam, sitting by the fire listening to poetry readings by 2 Irish poetesses dressed in burqa’s and then the Good Room where a comedic priest, Father Tony, was having a Lovely Girl Competition for his housemaid. Very tongue-in-cheek improv.
We got a list half way via quad and trekked down for our last shift. We hung with Carrie, Amber and Maeve, listening to their stories of how Scotshouse and Clones became their home. They were all so curious why we would ever give up tours of the beautiful touristy stuff for their little town + festival. I didn’t have the words on hand to explain to them that it’s not just about seeing the sights. The sights will always be there, but the people and listening to their lives and stories is what matters most. Listening to how the 2 sides fought and the soldiers that would detain them for no reason at all – that kind of strife is unfamiliar to me.
Stef and I made our way to the Butty Barn to listen to Mundy and Shane McGowan. As they set up I saw Pat McCabe poke out of the caravan DJ booth and debated going up there. I took a swig of my drink and figured fortunate favors the bold – go for it. I shook his hand! Great but now I want a picture. OK, got that but the setting was shit. He asked me my name and I gave it to him but I failed to tell him I was also a writer. I guess that’s obnoxious? I don’t know but I am kicking myself now for not saying so. I didn’t go up a third time though because then I’d look mental.
We heard great music with Maria Doyle Kennedy, The Amazing Few, Seven Days and our personal favorite, Larry Beau. We ate scrumptious organic food and local fare (get the chicken fuselli with mushrooms and onions in a white wine sauce from the Lennard Arms Hotel in Clones – HOLLER) and we had the time of our lives.
None of these wonderful memories would have occurred, however, if it weren’t for a these awesome individuals:
Kevin – For putting it on & getting the ball rolling for me.
Paula & Amber – For being so accommodating to two totally naive girls from L.A.
Andy – For being our knight & saving the day countless times.
Daniel – For letting us hitch a ride with you. It was our first time hitch-hiking and we’re so glad it ended up being with you!
Trying to recapture what I experienced is completely futile. It was three days where I was cold, unwashed, enchanted, exhausted, entertained, curious and utterly mesmerized. I would go back in a heart beat – maybe this time with a press pass?