Going Wild for the Comeraghs!

From July 12th to the 15th, the Comeraghs Wild Festival returns for its sixth edition, celebrating the incredible scenery, diversity, colour and culture of the Comeragh Mountains and the Copper Coast. Michelle Heffernan spoke with Festival founder Bernadette Drohan on an event which encapsulates the beauty of Waterford here on our own doorsteps…

“The Festival was set up to commemorate all that is unique and authentic about the Comeraghs and Copper Coast region,” Bernadette Drohan told The Munster Express.
“We wanted to celebrate the music, the storytelling, the folklore, the mountains, the water and the people”.
Since its inception in 2013, Bernadette and the festival committee have certainly succeeded in showcasing the best this region has to offer. Spanning across the Copper Coast to communities such as Clonea Power, Portlaw, Mahon Bridge, Nire Valley, Stradbally, Kilmacthomas etc, this festival has staged events in music, dance, theatre, art, cycling and adventure against the backdrop of the stunning mountainous scenery.
“This year the line-up is different,” says Bernadette, “an extra day has been added”. The festival will now begin on Thursday, July 12th with an open air staged play in Clonea, and continue with a jam packed line-up right up to Sunday July 15th.
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“The programme this year includes everything” Bernadette says “ from plays to art in the mountains, cycles, historic talks, music in the mountains, surfing, a heritage walk, a street fete, storytelling,, open air cinema, loop walks, yoga in the open air, seaweed foraging and more.” One particularly popular event returning from last year is the “Mountain High Music”, an especially enchanting evening of live music deep in the Comeragh Mountains. “The Mahon Falls event is always spectacular,” Bernadette says. “In the past there were plays in the mountains but last year, music was added to the programme. People will park at the car park at Mahon Falls and walk for about 20 minutes into the foot of the waterfalls for an open air concert. A stage will be erected, with a small canopy and those attending are invited to bring camp chairs, sit on bales or sit on the rocks, some bring picnics! It’s a spectacular venue and the music echoes through the mountains.”

On the line-up for this year’s “Mountain High Music” are Waterford’s own folk/trad group Newfoundland. Joined on this July evening by the Dublin Gospel Choir, they promise an exceptionally memorable evening of captivating sounds right in the heart of the Comeraghs.Moreover, Bernadette is also especially excited about a new addition to the festival programme this year: the Sean Kelly Dawn Chorus Cycle. Following the 11-year success story that has been the Sean Kelly Cycling Tour, the Dawn Chorus Cycle will take lace on the Waterford Greenway. “I’m definitely most excited about this event,” Bernadette confirms.
Those feeling as adventurous as Bernadette are invited to set their clocks extra early and start the city leg of the tour at 4.30am at the Rainbow Hall in Kilmacthomas. Participants will be invited to take either one of two routes – east or west, both returning to Kilmacthomas later that morning for a well-earned goody bag and hearty breakfast.
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Most importantly, 50 per cent of the entry fees for this event will be donated to two important charities, the Solas Cancer Support Centre and the St John’s Special School in Dungarvan. “It will be great to see the Greenway being used as part of the festival” Bernadette adds. “Because it’s a leisure and pleasure event, we hope it will spur people who haven’t cycled the Greenway before to use it.”Other festival highlights include “mountain masterclasses”- watercolour painting classes with internationally renowned artist, Rosin O’Shea, as well as “Magical Morning Yoga” a “Bonmahon Surfing Open Day”, a “Kilmacthomas Street Fête” and a taster of the Nire Valley Summer Drop. “It’s really captured the imagination” Bernadette says, reflecting on the festival. “There’s a fantastic community spirit about the festival with more and more communities coming on board each year. It’s fantastic to see people of all ages embracing the events, it really ensures the history and culture of the area is protected, for generations to come.”

What about the weather, I tentatively ask Bernadette, noticing that so many of these events take place outdoors, within the scenery itself.“We’ve been lucky,” Bernadette replies honestly, though she admits July was chosen particularly for this reason. “Traditionally, the festival took place in September,” Bernadette explains, “but it was moved to July last year to make most of the good weather, as well as accommodate families on holiday during the tourist season.
“We’ve been very lucky with the weather in the past years, and those who support events always dress appropriately when it gets chilly or wet”.
Walking boots, comfy clothes and layers are indeed advised for many festival events, though it seems likely the craic and ceol lined up for this year’s festival will keep all minds and bodies well warmed.
So what are Bernadette’s hopes for this year’s festival? “That the sun will shine – as it did last year – and that people will support the many events. The festival has grown organically each year, and with a voluntary organising committee who have been so positive and enthusiastic, the possibilities are endless!”

For full festival programme and to book tickets visit comeraghswild.com or call 086-7777515. Special early bird ticket offers available on some events via eventbrite.ie. The Comeraghs Wild Festival is supported by Waterford City& County Council and Ireland’s Ancient East.

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