Well it wasn't Burning Man. In fact, as I wandered around the festival late on the Saturday night it was apparent that one of the bonfires was having significant trouble burning.
Having experienced near incessant rain for most of the day this came as no surprise. For this was County Monaghan, not Nevada, and an arts and literary festival, not a sun-drenched, hedonisitic, caring/sharing gathering in a dustbowl.
The Flatlake Festival is, to misquote Mao, a festival with Irish characteristics. It's in the beautiful setting of Hilton Park, near Clones (home to an annual film festival), reclining amongst rolling hills and bathed in scurrilous looking clouds, a "paragon of desirability".
There's a wonderfully Heath Robinson, and defiantly anti-corporate feel to it, for it is:
A righteous weekend jive for Artyheads, Moochers, B-Girls, Gassers, Bandrats, Grifters, Shifters, Snowbirds, Hepcats, Heels, Groghounds…. and long gone Daddies.
There's no Orange sponsored zone for charging your mobile. But there is an information caravan.
…that provided all important updates
The most corporate thing about the event was probably the 15 second cinema.
With 3 young children and Monsoon style rain to contend with my appreciation of the huge variety of musicians, poets, artistics and others there assembled was more limited than I might have wished. (I missed Seamus Heaney and Edna O'Brien). One 'tent' I particularly enjoyed was the Good Room – a living recreation of that important space within an Irish home in which visitors might be entertained. Here were book readings from authors, such as Brian Leydon – below -reading The Home Place) conjuring up images of Ireland in the era of JFK – a time when Irish Americans came to appreciate their links with the Emerald Isle and the "forty shade of green" that might welcome their return, and for whose Irish cousins their visits would mean that they were on holiday at home.
There was a big top in a field, far away from the thinly spread crowd in which, if you please, the boxer Barry McGuigan (turns out his Dad was a singer and he's from Clones) sang around midnight, not long before the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra came on.
Wandering around one might find beach houses – how I wished each time I passed them that this was where I might be sleeping….
And places to relieve oneself.
By the end of a damp evening, I was reduced to queuing for what was nearly 10 minutes short of an eternity for some 'fast food'…that made the slow food movement look rapid.
But nourished by under-cooked chips, some pints of the black stuff and glugs of whiskey, and the departing glimpse of the grand house that is Hilton, I stumbled down unlit paths back to my tent….
(There are some more pix of Flatlake Festival at flickr)