New doc on Westport Folk and Bluegrass Fest released

Staying In

FESTIVAL FOUNDER Uri Kohen being interviewed for the new documentary.


Ciara Moynihan

A new documentary on the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival was released online on Sunday last. Directed by Claremorris native Rickie O’Neill – known to many as the Saw Doctors’ drummer – and produced by BackHouse Films, it is a charming 14-minute film, showcasing the town, the festival and the man behind it, Uri Kohen.
The Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival has been running since 2007, and has grown to become one of year’s musical highlights for locals and the huge amount of visitors it attracts every year from all around the country and beyond.
Each year, a few days before the friendly festival kicks off, the town’s quotient of plaid shirts, caps and beards begins to rise. Starting out as a trickle, it rises to a full-blown wave as a myriad of top-class acts and lively bluegrass and folk-music fans fill local venues, swarm the streets and generally raise the tone to a tow-tapping, thigh-slapping fever pitch.   
From the get-go of the O’Neill’s film, music is to the fore – and scenes from festivals gone by fill the screen. (Frequent attendees will be looking out for familiar faces, and they won’t be disappointed.) Lovely atmospheric shots of Westport bars and sights around the town feature alongside an interview with Uri – who is his usual passionate, warm and open self.
“My vision was always to do it for the town,” he says. “It was about showcasing Westport to the world, showcasing bluegrass music to Westport, and mainly that the people of Westport and the businesses of Westport will have something to celebrate… and it’s Westport – people love it, they love to come here.” With a broad smile he adds, “It’s what it’s all about.”
Festival committee member Freda Hatton also adds in a cúpla focail about the festival’s Irish-traditional/folk element and the joy of bringing together folk traditions from different places and watching the musicians and fans interact.
For anyone looking to get a sense of the festival – or a reminder of the fun of previous years – this film is a little gem. To watch it, head to YouTube and search for Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival, Documentary. It can also be viewed on at www.backhousefilms.ie.