Life

Clon guitar festival has a welcome for everyone

September 4th, 2022 10:05 PM

By Emma Connolly

Ray Blackwell says whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it at the festival. (Photo: Brid O’Donovan)

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CLONAKILTY’S guitar festival turns 18 next month, while an 80th birthday will also be celebrated at the event. 

That’s the 80th birthday party of musician Andy Irvine who will perform at the festival which runs from September 9th-18th.

Organiser Ray Blackwell described it as ‘the exuberant naïveté of youth and the burden of wisdom and experience colliding in our beautiful seaside town over two weekends in September.’

‘It’s going to be wild!’ he promised. 

The festival began in 2005, and reflecting, Ray says he’s sure ‘it was just a ruse by my dad (Bobby Blackwell) to get me invested in DeBarras and my community.’

‘Himself, Dinny Noonan, Brian O’Regan and at the time DeBarra’s manager Diarmuid O’Sullivan had been the stalwarts of the Clonakilty festival scene for 20 plus years, overseeing the Clonakilty busking festival among many others with the likes of Mossy Shanley, Tommy Tuiper and Ger Hart – all instrumental players in creating the vibrant festival scene of Clonakilty. 

‘In 2005 dad, Dinny and Brian O’Regan as good as headlocked me, Gav Moore, Anthony Noonan and Alan Tobin and told us we were now on the festival committee and it was up to us young fellas to figure out how it was going to be shaped.

 ‘But they were there every step of the way to guide us and here we are 18 years later.

‘Gav and Anto moved on from the committee to focus more on playing music than organising it, but Alan Tobin is still part of our team to this day and does all our design work. Kevin McNally came on board in 2008 and the festival hasn’t looked back since.’

Highlights this year include Xylouris White, a group that features Georgios Xylouris on Cretan laouto and Jim White (legendary drummer from the Dirty Three).

‘The festival is a celebration of the guitar. It is not starch collared or stuffy nosed, from virtuosos to noodlers, all are welcomed and exalted.  

‘Whatever you’re looking for you’ll find it at the guitar fest.’

Ray said they’re thankful to their main sponsor Heineken and to the continued support and mentorship from the Arts Council and Cork County Arts office. 

‘However it’s definitely getting harder for me and Kev to run the festival with the increasing demands of our work and family lives.

‘I guess it’s nearly time we headlocked a few young lads or lasses and dragged them into a committee meeting….’

For more on the schedule and ticket information see clonguitarfest.com. 

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