We had another very successful festival weekend in 2023, building on last year's format with pub sessions and adding some late-morning & afternoon café recitals.
Last year's problem of not enough sessions in parallel was addressed and all keen visiting musicians seem to have found a seat at one or more sessions.
We had some great musicians in town and all events ran smoothly, including one late location change to the bar area of a restaurant near the harbour which worked very well.
The 2 main challenges for us are still there - reduced pub venue availabilities and reduced accommodation possibilities in the town.
So, for a 3rd year we have run a festival without workshops, set dancing or an opening concert, but we more than made up for that with the quality of the music in the sessions which took place in all 6 local pubs this year and at the Sailing Club, Molly's Café, Café Jacques, Italian Restaurant La Scarpetta and harbour restaurant The Brick House. Very positive feedback was again received from musicians, listeners and the local business owners.
We were delighted that the year-old Skerries Folk Club joined with us for the festival and ran an additional singing session as part of the weekend's programme.
A novel addition to this year's festival was a harp recital by 6 accomplished harpists organised by local harpist Siobhán Bhreathnach. The listeners greatly appreciated the afternoon performances of Noreen O'Donoghue, Siobhán Bhreathnach, Áine Martin, Fiona Gryson, Alannah Thornburgh and Emer Ní Scolaí.
There was a session for teenagers and a family session to cater for younger players ; both of these were held at the Sailing Club with the former hosted by local group Inis Rua and the latter by Mairéad Gaffney of the McEvoy family in Termonfeckin.
There were really nice afternoon sessions with quality music and attentive listeners in 2 or 3 pubs on each of the 2 afternoons ; the Friday opening night had 4 pub sessions which helped distribute people better. The weather was fabulous which allowed some listeners stay outside and enjoy the music drifting out through open windows and doors.
Sunday evening included an Adult slow session for less experienced players ; this is a very popular session which also happens outside of the festival and Paudie O'Connor is a popular facilitator of that session. In parallel with that there was a 'high-octane' session downstairs led by our local Skerries musicians, with many singers encouraged to contribute, to bring the festival to a fitting closure.
We were delighted to have some of our past performers join us again in 2023 and the full list included Mick O'Brien (pipes/flute), Paul Bradley (fiddle), Derek Hickey (box) & Jacqui Martin (fiddle), Troy Bannon (flute), Sean McElwain (banjo/bouzouki/guitar), Paudie O'Connor (box) & Aoife Ní Chaoimh (fiddle), John McEvoy (fiddle) & Jacinta McEvoy (concertina), the Waterford contingent of Caoimhín O'Fearghaíl (pipes/flute), Paddy Tutty & Pax O'Faoláin (fiddles) & Macdara O'Faoláin (bouzouki), Paul Doyle (guitar), Brendan Martin (fiddle), Jim Grant (flute), Aoife Johnston (concertina), Conor Lyons (bouzouki, bodhrán), Mairéad McEvoy-Gaffney (flute), the harpists Siobhán Bhreathnach, Noreen O’Donoghue, Áine Martin, Fiona Gryson, Alannah Thornburgh & Emer Ní Scolaí and local musicians Alan Byrne, Larry Egan, Maurice Egan, Paul Kelly, Bill Haneman, James O'Mahony, Aidín Ní Mhaonaigh, Kevin O’Keeffe, Carol Keane and the Lawlor family (Ray Lawlor, Aido Lawlor, Helen Lyons with family & friends). Also prominent at the sessions were festival regulars Eimer Casey, Fergal McArdle, Dave Morris, Colm Ó Fathaigh, Maurice Mullen, Sean & Fiachra MacPhilibín, John Hackett, Aoife McDermott & Colin Gunning, as well as some visitors from out-of-town who may well have played in more sessions than anybody else.
We are very grateful for the solid foundations laid by the original committee and for the continued support of local musicians, local businesses and the Arts Department of Fingal County Council.