Event Review: Fr. Ted Festival, Lisdoonvarna, May 29th, 2017
Weekend Ticket Price: €60 (€55 Early Bird)
Day Pass: €35-42
Fr. Ted Festival was held on the 28th– 30th May 2017, a cold bank holiday weekend.
Organised by Ted Tours, and not to be confused with the original Tedfest on Inis Mór, the event was held in Lisdoonvarna for the first time. Hordes of merry bishops, perky priests and popular characters from the show descended on the quaint town, best known for its annual matchmaking festival. There were two hundred and fifty tickets sold for the event, and, according to the organisers, an extra hundred people paid in at the door on the Saturday night.
An array of activities was included in the reasonably priced ticket; bus tour to the Father Ted house from the show, including tea and cakes; Fr. Jack cocktail reception; All Priests and Nuns Table Football championship; matchmaking; Karaoke; Golden Cleric awards; Ted’s Got Talent; and, of course, the Lovely Girls Contest.
The bus tour consisted of a rather long drive around winding roads at questionable speeds, and into oncoming traffic. Clare epitomises the relaxed ‘T’will be grand’ attitude of old Ireland and even a damaged wing mirror didn’t faze our hosts; truly the full Ted experience.
The tour I attended was led by Sr. Attracta Savage (all guides use Ted-themed pseudonyms), who also happened to have worked as an extra on the actual show, and who cheerfully shared anecdotes of her time working with the legendary Dermot Morgan and gang. Any awkwardness, created by the throwing together of two separate hen party groups into a confined space, was dispelled by a singalong, gamely led by Sr. Attracta and eagerly taken up by her charges.
I experienced a flurry of fond nostalgia on arriving at the memorable grey building, one where money rested in accounts and bishops were kicked up the arse.
Notably, a hen party member dressed as Bishop Brennan was kicked, somewhat over-enthusiastically, up the arse on meeting a group of Tyrone natives masquerading as priests, in the front garden. But it was all in good humour and seemed a fitting location for the most inane shenanigans.
Inside the house gives way to a foolish sense of disappointment on the discovery that the layout doesn’t match that of the show. Unfortunately, there is no crusty Fr. Jack armchair, shoddy bookshelves, or any sign of a manic hamster careering across the living room floor. Of course there’s not; this is a functioning family home; its occupants open their doors to ‘Ted-heads’ during tourist season.
After a nice cup of tea and some cake, the owner of the house arrived to share the story of his association with the show, scenes that were filmed there, and his reaction to Fr. Ted’s success. A charismatic host, he finished with a spellbinding recitation of The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats.
On our return journey, we were driven back through Ennistymon, where Attracta highlighted film locations, and filled us in on backstage gossip. We had a rest stop at the setting for the ‘My Lovely Horse’ video, complete with cringe-worthy rendition of the song, before heading for a quick drink; a welcome respite from the mini-bus.
The main event on Saturday night was held in the largest venue in town, The Burren Storehouse, a beautifully restored and authentic building. The bar has a large wood-burning pizza stove and an attractive menu. Hosted by ‘characters’ by the show, entertainment included the ‘All Priests and Nuns Karaoke’, a fancy-dress contest and the ‘Lovely Girls Competition.’
Attendees on the night enthusiastically engaged with the fancy dress theme and a deserving winner was found in Sam Smyth from County Mayo, who had hand-crafted her ‘Chris the Sheep’ costume with hilarious results.
The Lovely Girls contest was a tad protracted and indulgent for some tastes; some contestants seemed to be channelling the character of Niamh Connolly rather than Imelda (Series 2, Episode 7, ‘Rock-a-Hula Ted’), but there’s no denying that “They all have lovely bottoms!”
Go wan, go wan, GO WAN!
Comments from people on the night focused on the “proper Clare craic,” the “brilliant experience,” and the “good old-fashioned fun.” Organisers and participants alike were enthusiastic about the Ted theme and up for a laugh.
Considering the number of hen and stag parties attending the event, the atmosphere was fun and light, with none of the lewd drunkenness and wildness that has come to be associated with the ‘last night of freedom.’ Instead, there was laughter, impromptu samba lines, priest-led Macarena formations and other such frivolities.
Careful now; down with that sort of thing!
The consensus amongst hen/stag party members I spoke to was that the bus tour was too long; most had travelled the distance to Lisdoonvarna by bus and, according to one man, were “stir-crazy with being cooped up,” with no pun intended, I’m sure.
“There was one negative — no need to go to Ennistymon,” another festival goer commented. Of course, a real Ted-head would never want to miss out on Ennistymon, so the organisers could save themselves a lot of time and effort if they offered options of ‘Ted House Only’ or ‘Full Ted Experience’; but perhaps that would be an ecumenical matter!
Overall, the reaction to the festival was positive and the beautiful town of Lisdoonvarna offers good value in terms of accommodation options. Event organisers, Ted Tours, envisage it “staying in Lisdoonvarna for many years to come.”
For information on festival bookings, go to: https://www.facebook.com/FatherTedFestival/ or http://www.tedtours.com.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Ravine House Hotel, which, although modest, was reasonably priced and friendly.