It was hailed as the biggest thing to happen to Irish tourism since visitors began to discover the charms of this Emerald Isle, but what is going on with the Gathering? Billed as an opportunity for those living here to extend an invitation to friends and family living elsewhere to visit during 2013, it is designed to be a celebration of what it means to be Irish. Events kicked off with a massive New Year’s Eve party in Dublin and continue throughout the year, with clan gatherings, festivals, concerts, and some quirky events included among the proceedings. Here are 10 of them:
A Gathering of High Nellys, April 27th – 28th
Celebrate the classic black bicycle with the Gathering of High Nellys at Durty Nellys pub, outside Bunratty Castle, County Clare, from April 27th to 28th. Activities include fancy dress, repair workshops, treasure hunts, storytelling, and dancing at the crossroads. There will be a prize for the oldest High Nelly and a record attempt for the most High Nellys in one place. The High Nelly high jinks will end with a grand parade through Bunratty Folk Park.
Mayo International Choral Festival Gathering, May 23rd – 26th
Mayo will be alive with song this May with the first county-wide choral festival, which is inviting choirs and music fans from around the world to perform in a noncompetitive setting. Venues include the historic Ballintubber Abbey and the cutting-edge Royal Theatre, where choirs will sing in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Choirs can get to know other choirs and enjoy the scenery, with highlights including tours of Mayo and what promises to be a spectacular Massed Choir at a gala concert.
Seisiun Thír Chonaill, Donegal, June Bank Holiday Weekend
Traditional music fans will be flocking to the town of Dungloe in Donegal this June bank holiday weekend for Seisiún ThÍr Chonaill, a unique festival featuring the best in Irish music. Highlights include a pub session competition, and the weekend ends on a high on Sunday afternoon with a grand finale. The winners of the competition will be announced on Main Street, and an open air ceili will take to the streets, accompanied by sounds from the best local musicians.
Feile Lughnasa, Cloghane, Dingle July 26th to 29th
Féile Lúghnasa is a revival of the ancient Celtic harvest festival allegedly established by the god Lugh to mark the changing of the seasons. Taking place in July in the village of Cloghane, outside Dingle, County Kerry, the festival centres on a climb of the mystical Mount Brandon, with music and a poetry reading at its peak. Other highlights include a Hi Breasal production of a John B. Keane play, street entertainment, sheep shearing, and great pub sessions. The reluctantly single may be interested to discover that Lughnasa was traditionally associated with matchmaking and “handfastings” – temporary marriages that lasted a year and a day.
The Gathering Cruise
A year after his unforgettable victory in the epic Volvo Ocean Race, Kerryman Damian Foxall returns from his home in France for The Gathering Cruise. This exciting event will see a flotilla of 100 boats cruise around Ireland over 19 days in July, making dramatic stops at designated Gathering gateway ports including Dublin and along the coasts of Cork and Kerry. The boats will sail from the U.K., before gathering in Kinsale for a Welcome Reception. The farewell reception will take place in Dingle.
Dublin Mini Maker Faire, July 27th,
If you like to see how things work, or, indeed, if you like to make them work yourself, head to the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin on July 27th. The Dublin Mini Maker Faire is a festival for all ages, celebrating invention, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. This is Ireland’s leading festival of making, attracting artists, engineers, and tinkerers who dabble in everything from robot-making to blacksmithing.
Redhead Convention, August 24th, Crosshaven, Cork
We’re not the world leader when it comes to ginger hair (that’s Scotland), but we come a close second, so the Gathering 2013 is the perfect opportunity for redheads from across the world to get together in Ireland. Held in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, the Redhead Convention descends on the seaside village of Crosshaven, Cork on Saturday August 24th. The original “FoxyFest,” it will feature activities including a parade, freckle-counting competitions, a ginger chef cook-off, fire eating, and discounts around Crosshaven for natural redheads. Those not endowed with naturally foxy locks are still welcome: There will be facilities for dying your hair red and competitions for the “Best Wannabe Redhead.”
Roscommon GAA Reunion, October
If Gaelic games were all that Ireland ever gave the world, it would represent a pretty impressive contribution, so it would be impossible to imagine any kind of a national celebration without some serious GAA-related input. For the Gathering, players from around the world are invited to Roscommon to get involved in a packed schedule of sporting, cultural, and social events, all focused on the GAA. Events will be held countywide, with standouts including a tournament in which only players from abroad will participate, as well as reunions of former champions at the Senior Football and Hurling Championship Finals.
Fáilte Isteach: The Villages of Dublin welcome the Cities of the British Isles
For this hands-across-the-water event, each of Dublin’s villages will invite people from British cities to their hometown for a weekend in October. Clubs, schools, and employers are getting involved to impress the visitors with cultural, sporting, and social events. At the same time, the mayors of British cities with substantial Irish communities are being invited to Dublin to celebrate the two countries’ shared heritage.
Gathering the Gathering
So how do the organisers plan to wrap up all the hundreds of events that will make The Gathering 2013 such a stellar event in Irish tourism history? In space, of course. For Gathering the Gathering, they want people to record and upload their opinions and experiences of The Gathering 2013 on a special website (http://gatheringthegathering.com/), and on the last day of the year, they will transmit all of this material to a planet outside the solar system, called Epsilon Eridani, via a powerful radio telescope at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork. These cosmic postcards will also be stored in a digital time capsule for opening in 2023, when the messages arrive at their destination. As they make their way through the dark reaches of space, you can keep track on the website.