From good old fashioned diddley-eye to trad rock fusion and impromptu musical street sessions, the ancient town of Drogheda looks set to reach peak Fleadh this weekend, as it plays host to the annual Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann following the official opening by President Michael D. Higgins last Sunday. This is the closest the Fleadh has come to Dublin in a while, and with the Boyneside town less than an hour away we were easily able to spend a couple of evenings sampling some fine Drawda craic earlier this week. We discovered the streets and alleyways bustling with banter, ceol and fun, so for those planning to make the short jaunt up the road this weekend (and even for those who aren’t), here’s a small selection of Totally Dublin’s picks from the Fleadh side.
Domes, Gig Rigs and Stages
Of course the Fleadh is all about the music, and the sheer number of stages, domes and musical venues dotted across the town guarantee that you’re never more than two minutes from a live musical performance. There’s a feast of entertainment in store from musicians including Mícheál ÓSúilleabháin, The Hot House Flowers and The Rowesome Quartet, as well as a hotly anticipated appearance by recently reformed musical legends Stockton’s Wing. Bolton Square is the setting for the spectacular Gig Rig, a free open air platform for an eclectic range of folk, trad and rock. Local Slane band The Wednesdays ignited the place ahead of their performance at this year’s Electric Picnic, and you can expect more of the same from a number of artists over the weekend. In between acts, festival goers can enjoy some welcome liquid refreshment and a complimentary bar bite in nearby traditional watering hole the Punt or a few scoops at the Market Bar festival marquee.
You can’t beat an aul’ sing song and that’s something the citizens of this ancient borough are always well up for. There’s tons of spontaneity to be enjoyed while rocking across the Golden Mile, with broom dancing courtesy of the Deadly Deli Dancers of Narrow West Street, sean nós singing on the steps of St. Peter’s and a rollicking after hours rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody – just three of the things we witnessed on a short stroll from Narrow West Street to Laurence’s Gate.
The stunning 13th century barbican known as Laurence’s Gate forms an impressive backdrop to the equally impressive open air Music At The Gate series. Featuring a medley of dancers, singers and percussionists performing traditional tunes and ballads, there’s always room for audience participation, which generally tends to be enthusiastically encouraged. Next door, The Design Gallery is a great spot to pick up a memento of your visit, carrying everything from pottery by Nicolas Mosse to souvenir horse nail musicians. Gift wrapping is their pleasure!
Fleadh Food and Watering Holes
Sustenence is a key part of any festival and the Fleadh is no different. A terrific selection of Fleadh street food can be found on Fair Street, while the Secret Garden on Scholes Lane has been serving up stone baked pizzas and home made lemonade all week. Further afield Artisan on Stockwell Street has a comforting array of traditional home cooked pies, lasagnes and salads, while nearby Kings offers a selection of spicy curries and meal deals freshly cooked to order. When it comes to musical pubs Drogheda boasts an embarrassment of riches, including such stalwarts as Clarkes, McPhails, Sarsfields, Gleesons, The Weavers and Carberry’s, to name but a few, each of which has put together a cracking selection of musical entertainment for the duration of the Fleadh. Meanwhile Teach Finn, a popup on Trinity Street, is home to a specially recreated interior reflecting the way the place might well have looked 100 years ago.
Watching the Fleadh from Afar
For those who can’t get to the Boyneside this weekend… Armchair traditionalists can enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of their own home through Fleadh TV on TG4, while those tempted to travel are invited to check out the Drogheda Down Memory Lane and Drogheda Live Facebook pages, both of which provide a great day by day flavour of what’s going on via images and videos posted by locals. For more see: Fleadhceoil.ie