When a lot of people think about festivals they maybe conjure up an image of a dishevelled character wandering through mud with one shoe, no money in the pocket for food and exhausted through lack of sleep after a hard weekend of partying. Mark Graham’s journey starts with him in a similar predicament but in rather different circumstances. Mark finds himself at Lough Derg where he fasts, walks with no shoes, and goes without sleep.
When Mark’s mortgage application is declined he’s faced with the choice of saving up for a bigger deposit or getting himself out of the rat race. He opts for the latter and decides to use his cash to attend three festivals a week in Ireland for a year. He climbs aboard Wanderly Wagon, his campervan home from home, and away he goes.
It isn’t long before he gets a clear picture of what’s ahead of him. He sees festival people providing fun all year round, improving communities and making the place a better place to live. He gets involved in all kinds of activities, from conkers, to bog-snorkelling and bucket singing and finds many different things that people are enjoying, from set-dancing of a night to a really tasty prawn of a day.
He finds great hope for the country from people out at walking festivals, including people that are out of work but are refusing to be ground down by the state of the economy and spend their days out cycling and hillwalking. He’s got a deep appreciation for nature, when driving around Connemara he finds himself wondering why anyone goes abroad at all, something I’ve wondered myself while spending time in places like Connemara, Dingle and west Cork.
He’s got a great love of music of course, with his passion for the talents of Lisa Hannigan and Christy Moore really shining through. There’s also some very fine comedy festivals in Ireland, with the Irish acts generating massive ticket sales. Literature and food also play prominent roles in the Irish festival calendar, with a wide range of events across the country.
He goes to the big events like Electric Picnic and Forbidden Fruit but a lot of praise is saved for events like Drop Everything, a festival built from scratch and crowdfunded. The smaller festivals are often the ones with the best integrity and atmosphere, people out for a good time and not just there for the big headline acts.
This books stands up as a great document of a very positive country, far from the land of negativity fuelled by the rants of daytime talk show hosts. It’s a country full of people providing diverse and entertaining things for people from all walks of life and this book is an uplifting rallying call for people across the country to get out there and get involved.