All jazz hands on deck

May 3rd, 2019 8:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Ballydehob Jazz Festival's artistic director Joe O'Leary with Colette Forde. The village will be thronged with locals and visitors alike this weekend. (Photo: Miki Barlock)

Share this article

Everyone in Ballydehob has pulled together to deliver this weekend’s jazz festival, writes Aisling Meath


THE entire village and surrounding community have made this happen, said Joe O’Leary, artistic director of this weekend’s Ballydehob Jazz festival which is now in its 13th year. 

The event has been attracting thousands of visitors to the village over the years and its international reputation as a snazzy bijou festival is continuing to expand. 

Several world-class musicians have performed at previous festivals and this year is no exception. Indeed once they have had the experience of a visit to West Cork, many return unable to resist the buzz of performing in a unique village atmosphere. 

The committee members, including James Arnold, Stephen Donsbach, Godfrey Fitzsimons, Barry O’ Brien along with Joe, are delighted to deliver a programme of over 50 performances that will take place over four days in 11 venues from Friday (May 3rd) with 45 of them free.

‘Luckily there are “jazz angels” all across this who have been mad busy preparing for the festival and their input has been incredible,’ said Joe.

By angels he means the ‘the creators, the organisers, the visionaries, the local businesses, the sponsors, the accommodation sorters and the ones with the gaffer tape handy who have made this weekend happen.’

‘I’d like to sincerely thank everyone involved and also to remember the man whose vision started it all, John Fagan, now sadly deceased,’ recalls Joe.

Joe is known locally as Joe ‘Fred’ from his days with the successful Cork band Fred, and since coming to live in West Cork with his life partner Caroline they have turned his family pub, Levis’ Cornerhouse, into a music hotspot.

‘Ballydehob is full of so many creative and talented people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work together to create something beautiful,’ said Joe.

‘The festival is for everyone to enjoy. It’s all inclusive and we extend a huge welcome to all to come and join in the fun and bring along the family.

‘From the school children who are preparing for the parade, to puppet makers, administrators, people putting up posters, the efforts have been second to none,’ said Joe

Among the many highlights of this weekend is the New Orleans Jazz Parade on both Saturday and Sunday at 6pm with participants and local schoolchildren parading through the streets with giant puppets Katrina, Diego and their dog.

Local artist and theatre set maker Fiona McCarthy drew and designed the figures of the puppets and Diego and Katrina are now an integral part of the festivities. They even wowed the organisers of the Electric Picnic who saw them in Ballydehob and invited them to ‘hang around’ at the famous festival.

‘Joe had the initial idea to put on a New Orleans inspired funeral parade,’ explained Fiona. 

 ‘So I started some workshops in the community. We set about making costumes, involving hours of work, and it was lovely to see the schoolchildren infused with enthusiasm throughout the process. I made the puppet heads from paper and resin, painted them, and made the hair from felt. Then Dr. Dink, another local artist, constructed the bodies with movable parts and our puppet family was born. 

‘Lots of people contributed to making the costumes over the years but I particularly remember the help that Mary Sim gave to sew Katrina’s huge skirt as we were running late the first year!’ recalls Fiona.

Local resident, ‘Dr. Dink’ the creator of the puppet bodies learned his special art in Glasgow during 

the 1980’s. 

‘Along with Fiona and myself there was a great creative team. Volunteers came to workshops to make the props and work on rehearsals and performance,’ he explained.

‘Our puppet family can be quite fragile. We have to check that they are in good working order, and the family is growing every year. We have had great support from locals with people such as Bob James who I’d like to thank for the use of his tractor shed and yard for rehearsals, as the puppets are so large we needed a space like that to try them out. Also big thanks to Paul Cobb at the Oasis in the village where we have our workshops.’

Children’s participation in the festival has always been central and the local youngsters have once again been attending a series of free workshops in the community hall where they have been enjoying making costumes for the parade.

Terri Lieber and Karen Minihan, the talent behind the comedy duo ‘Eileen and Marilyn,’ have been spearheading the workshops this year. 

‘The local charity shop in Ballydehob Community Hall have been an amazing support supplying us with materials and the bits and pieces we need for the costumes,’ said Terri.

Local artist Hammond Janeaux has also praised the great resource that is the local charity shop. She sourced some materials from there for the large banners she made which now festoon the village and set the right tone for the fiesta. 

‘I would really like to acknowledge the wonderful help that was given to me by  Nora McSweeney with her sewing machine, and also Garda Jonathan McCarthy who cut out the lettering for me, they were both a great help,’ said Hammond.

Another local artist, Luisa McCarthy along with her team of two will be applying her face painting skills to at least 60 parade participants for each performance. 


• Festival highlights include Paul Dunlea with the Little Big Band and The Cork School of Music Big Band on Friday night.  Jacks & Jills Swing Band with special guest Stephanie Nilles will be star turns on Saturday and  Sunday nights. For more see

Share this article

Related content


to our mailing list for the latest news and sport:

Thank You!

You have successfully been subscribed to SouthernStar newsletter!

Form submitting... Thank you for waiting.