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Westport House Festival attracts 10,000

Festival fun
Aisling O’Brien, Clare Sheridan, Jessie Tobin and Melissa O’Brien from Castlebar are pictured at the inaugural Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts which was held last weekend in the grounds of Westport House. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Westport House festival attracts over 10,000

Áine Ryan

THE resounding success of the inaugural Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts, held over the weekend in the grounds of historic Westport House, means the event will be held again next year. The organisers confirmed to The Mayo News last night that more than 10,000 people attended the two-day event, which featured such headline acts as Imelda May, The Chieftains, Jools Holland and Ray Davies of The Kinks.  
Despite the large crowd the Festival passed off without incident, with just a handful of arrests being made for minor public order incidents. Gardaí have stated that the number of arrests were around the average for a weekend in June, and praised the crowd, whom they said had behaved very well. Traffic disruption was at a minimum, with the traffic and parking strategies working perfectly according to plan.
There were reports of busier trading days and nights from some of the retailers and publicans in the town, and all licenced premises in Westport were permitted to open late on Saturday and Sunday, further heightening what was a bumper weekend for many. Accommodation in the town and beyond was at capacity, while thousands camped on the grounds of Westport House.
The pedestrian friendly proximity of the venue, with the access leading directly into the town centre at Church Lane in only a couple of minutes walk from the main stage, ensured a steady flow of punters were constantly on the move between Westport House and the town.
“The organisers are incredibly happy with how the first Westport Festival went. There were in excess of 10,000 people in attendance which was a great turnout for year one of the festival. It’s a credit to all the festival go-ers that there was no trouble at all and the feedback has been so positive. It will definitely be happening again next year,” a spokeswoman for promoter Darryl Downey said.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Ms Sheelyn Browne of Westport House said: “We have been thinking about holding a festival for nearly 20 years now at Westport House and it certainly was worth the wait. We are absolutely thrilled with how well it went. Not only was the music fantastic but it was really encouraging to hear people talking about the warm welcome they received and the helpfulness of everyone from the festival stewards to the taxi drivers.”
“We take our hats off to all the team that worked tirelessly to make it happen. Special thanks to Darryl Downey who took a big risk in bringing this to Westport and Westport House – we are looking forward to next year already,” Ms Browne continued.

Festive food
CHAIRWOMAN of Westport Country Markets, Helen Shanley, told The Mayo News on Saturday: “This is one of the finest venues in the country. Who cares about the weather, it is Ireland after all, and it is warm. The crowd is lovely, there are lots of families, the children are having fantastic fun on the train and the slippery dip. I really hope it becomes an annual event.”
There were 21 stands from A Taste of Westport at the festival, which along with many other stalls, ensured a busy bazaar of artisan foods and crafts. While weather conditions were showery, with heavy downpours, on Saturday, the crowds still remained for all the gigs. Sunshine prevailed on Sunday with significantly larger crowds and many families from all over the country attending. Some of the food stalls sold completely out of produce on Sunday.
Food producer, Redmond Cabot said: “There were 21 stands from Taste of Westport ranging from fresh Clew Bay oysters to Killary fjord shellfish. The support and interest from festival-goers has exceeded all expectations. It is a phenomenal affirmation of Westport Country Markets which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.”
He said that celebrity chef, Derry Clarke, who attended the festival, had observed that the quality food stalls ‘were the best he had seen for ages’.

Tourism potential
PRAISING the event, Darren Madden, Chairman of Destination Westport, said:  “It was a magnificent event and very professionally organised. It seemed to attract the target market that fits well into Westport. If you were looking for an ideal event for Westport this festival achieved that. There was no rowdiness or no trouble. Destination Westport certainly endorses the festival and we got right in behind it from the beginning. We really hope this was the first of many.”.
Brian Quinn of Fáilte Ireland told The Mayo News that the festival had added ‘vigour and glamour to the town’s magnificent brand’
“This magnificently staged festival, attracted thousands of happy revellers, many of them locals. It was an outstanding family event of world class music, great conversation and dining out on fare from our own local food heroes, all of which only added to Westport being the very best place to live. We are very happy to thank Darryl Downey and his team who staged the event and most particularly the Browne family and their superb team in Westport House estate who worked so hard to achieve a dream,” Brian Quinn said yesterday.
“ We are also grateful to the main sponsors Fáilte Ireland and the local sponsors Mayo Naturally and Destination Westport, whose support ensured that the event took place. We look forward to working together to do it all again next year in Westport – the very best place to live in Ireland,” he continued.

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