The weekend before last we paid a visit to the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures which was held for the ninth time.
It remains a tremendous success and has built upon that success with every passing year, leading one to consider what could be done in Waterford in terms of a cultural event with a similar multi-ethnic theme.
Given the input that the city’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade has received in recent years from the ‘new Irish’ from Africa and Eastern Europe, it appears there is a ready made resource which we in the city can readily tap into.
There may be tendency among some for self-pity given the undoubtedly devastating news that the city has received on the manufacturing front over the past 18 months.
But difficulty can sometimes give rise to opportunity and we know that the city, as the south east’s capital, must now place greater emphasis on its tourist potential and the spin-offs that may have for the hospitality and service trades.
Bringing our range of different nationalities together for a day of culture could, as has proven the case in Dun Laoghaire, attract visitors to our city.
It may take time to consolidate the brand, but those who have toiled in Dun Laoghaire must now be proud of the event they stage each year, drawing 200,000 visitors over two days a few weeks’ back.
Next weekend’s Harvest Festival will bring food vendors from far and near to the city, so maybe the possibility of a link-up with an existing event might prove beneficial for such a ‘culture day’.
Staging such an event during Heritage Week would also represent a logical step were it to be brought about – we’ve got a few more ideas on this to come.
The atmosphere in Dun Laoghaire was very family friendly and most civilised considering the large attendance.
Critically, there was no major incidence of street drinking in evidence – which lamentably marks out so many other Irish festivals, thus marking it out as a particularly child-friendly event.
There was tremendous variety across the festival’s five stages and many display stands: from Japanese calligraphy to Chinese art, from Indonesian cookery to drummers from Burundi, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
While the weather may not have been kind, a variety of artists and performers, including Jane Birkin of ‘Je t’aime’ fame and the Son Cubano group performed to sell-out crowds. The music was good, the atmosphere was lively and a welcoming spirit enveloped the south Dublin town.
The stewarding was excellent and friendly and even the Gardaí had fun with some revellers offering the men in blue friendly hugs, bringing London’s Notting Hill carnival to mind.
Perhaps some enterprising Waterford arts, music and entertainment buffs might look at Dun Laoghaire as a template which could be adopted here – perhaps as part of the Light Opera Festival and the fringe festival.
Next year we understand the Dun Laoghaire festival is to be held in July and let’s hope that the weather proves kinder for its organisers and visitors come 2010.