IT’S been two long years since Bantry’s Chamber Music, the Literary Festival, and the Masters of Tradition have happened in person so their return this year is a cause for much celebration.
‘We missed the buzz of all the festivals and events,’ Elaine Dempsey, the general manager of The Maritime Hotel, told The Southern Star.
Elaine described the pleasure of walking down the corridor of the hotel and hearing musicians rehearsing for their performances.
‘Guests staying here get caught up in the excitement too,’ she added, ‘and feel as if they are part of the festival.
‘A lot of the events for the Literary Festival happen in the hotel – from the lunchtime readings to the main evening events and the late night gatherings – so we feel very much a part of it,’ she added.
‘It’s hard to convey the appeal of the festivals. They each have completely different audiences but all of them are uniquely vibrant.’
‘Everyone is welcoming the return of some form of normality,’ according to Eileen O’Shea, chairperson of Bantry Development and Tourism Association.
‘These festivals were greatly missed. Everything came to a full stop during lockdown but we are delighted to see our European visitors making a welcome return since April.’
Not only do these visitors boost the local economy, she said they serve to encourage locals to come out and enjoy many of the readings and workshops, as well as classic and traditional concerts.
‘The Chamber Music Festival is famous for its international appeal – the fact that it attracts tourists from all over the world, as well as being broadcast internationally too,’ said Eileen.
‘Right from the start, the literary festival has been a very popular local event with lots of events selling out quickly,’ said the association chairperson who believes some of its appeal is due to the fact that people love being able to meet their favourite authors in person. During the trio of festivals, she said people really do take the time to enjoy the town’s many amenities and attractions, as well as the pleasure of eating and drinking in its fine establishments.
Kate Smyth and Marnie Fischer of Bantry Bookshop said the thing they missed the most over the last two years was ‘people.’
‘It’s people that make the festivals,’ said Kate. ‘We were so restricted with numbers and masks and all the rest that went with Covid, so it will be great to have people back in a normal, relaxed setting that is so conducive to the atmosphere and success of these festivals.
‘The festivals are great for the local community as well, and we are looking forward to welcoming back our regular visitors,’ she said.
The West Cork Chamber Music Festival returns on June 24th with more than 100 events over 10 days.
Following the pandemic, the organisers have set out to improve the experience for audiences by reducing the number of seats in their venues at Bantry House, St Brendan’s Church, the Maritime Hotel, and the Christian Fellowship Church.
To balance this, the number of concerts has been increased to over 100 events.
To use a nautical analogy, Tim O’Leary, who operates the Whiddy Island Ferry and runs a restaurant on the island, said it is a case of ‘a rising tide raises all boats.’
He said the festivals are of a very high standard, but it’s the buzz around town that they generate that urges people to enjoy their home, or neighbouring town, more.
‘And if the sun is shining,’ he added, ‘so much the better.’
The Literary Festival runs from July 8th-15th and the Masters of Tradition from August 24th-28th.