Come dance at the crossroads

Living

Aughagower hosts two-day celebration of community, music, dancing and more

Preview
Ciara Moynihan

The normally tranquil village of Aughagower will be hopping this weekend when a lively two-day Dancing at the Crossroads festival brings traditional dancing, art, poetry, family fun, live music and more – and all for free.
The festival will kick of on Friday, June 24, with an outdoor riverside céilí at 8pm, with a full traditional céilí band and caller. Dancing in the heart of the village on a midsummer’s evening, just as it was in times before. The wonderful The Swallow’s Tail Céilí Band of Foxford are encouraging all beginners of all ages to come and have a go at set dancing and enjoy watching those who really know how it’s done. There’ll also be an Irish-dancing performance by local children.
All will be taking place against the mesmeric backdrop of light sculptures of horses. Artist Tom Meskell, Tommy Casby and many helpers have placed these luminous equines around the village, grazing or gazing out at passersby. The effect is sure to be spellbinding.
Tom will also be hosting a demo and workshop for local children in Aughagower Preschool and Afterschool on the Friday afternoon, during which a full-size sculpture of a person will be brought to life. Poet, playwright and performer Jenni Nikinmaa will tell people’s include ‘poetry fortunes’ inside a Mayo-made Irish Travellers’ barrel-top wagon, while Sídhe Sound Healing will offer frazzled minds a soothing, relaxing ‘sound-healing gong bath’ on the village green!
Saturday’s entertainment starts at 5pm, when the village bonfire will be lit, casting bright light into the darkening hours and drawing all to its warmth. The kids will undoubtedly be drawn to a magical musical tent on the village green – inside they will discover a treasure trove of instruments of all description. Raphael Dziubinski of Mayo Music Generation and a wonderful collection of artists will be on hand, ready to show, play along with and encourage any child, young or old, who’d like to try a tune or a rhythm. There’ll also be more fun for the kids with acrobatic circus antics, complete with hoops, with Aoife Raleigh.
Adults can look forward to a burlesque performance with Aoife as Rock Hard Roxy later in the evening, thanks to Achill’s Circus 250. There will also be food and drink in Scott’s XL and bar, as well as assorted food stalls.
Live music starts at 5pm too, with traditional Irish and Appalachian old-time music and folk songs on harp and banjo from Ryan McAuley and Swinford’s Alannah Thornburgh of Alfi. Next up will be Achill singer-songwriter and guitarist, Graham Sweeney, followed by Westport soul, funk, blues, roots legend Joanne Keegan and her roots and and old-time blues combo, Union Avenue, with Joe Fury and Eddie Walsh.
Don’t miss the performance by writer, performer, storyteller and musician Little John Nee, whose ‘gentle punk’ incorporates a myriad of musical instruments and loop pedals, and interactive play with the always-willing audience. A great chance to witness the man who the Irish Times says ‘does for the craggy rocks of the north-west what Dylan Thomas did for the lush valleys of Wales’. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything this funny in years,” wrote another reviewer in the Sunday Independent.
London-based singer-songwriter and folktronica wonder Seamus Fogarty (from Swinford) and his brother John will be playing beautiful, quirky and intriguing music with voice, banjo, guitar, accordion and electronic samples and loops. His poetic, experimental songs combine folk-rock and more-rustic traditional folk with electronic elements, including synthesizers and sound effects. A must for anyone with an ear for the atmospheric.
Sky Atlas, a great young four-piece on the rise, will then take centre stage. Made up of lead vocalist and guitarist Lughaidh Armstrong-Mayock of the musical Castlebar family and son of Dee Armstrong of revered Irish folk group Kíla, and bassist Danilo Ward, drummer Ryan McClelland, and Louis Younge, a wildly versatile multi-instrumentalist as adept with a violin as he is with a wind organ. Expect jazz/funk-influenced grooves and melodies coming together with heavy, intricate riffs and dramatic soundscapes. A band described as ‘stunningly epic’ by Hot Press, this should be another treat for music lovers.
Last, but certainly far from least, come the much-loved local blues-rock institution The Piston Slappers. Derek McGowan, David Dee Moore and Josie Joyce will round off the night, ensuring that no one will go home without the memory of a good dance under their oxter.
After these past few years of social distancing, Aughagower’s Dancing at the Crossroads festival is sure to remind us not only of the richness of our village traditions, but of the joy of social closeness, of coming together again to laugh dance and have the craic.

The festival is being hosted by Aughagower Community Council with the help of the Mayo Arts Office team and funding from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. For more, see www.facebook.com/aughagower