Paul Healy’s Week

Friday

The guy in the extremely dated ‘I shot JR’ t-shirt probably got the memo – but he may not have read it. Still, it wasn’t a weekend cut out for the fashion police.

Organisers of the ‘Forever Young’ Music Festival had encouraged the thousands of people attending to feel free to go ‘full nostalgia’ and wear outfits synonymous with the 1980s’ music scene. This, after all, was a weekend extravaganza that promised ‘The biggest 80s bands in the world’.

That’s why at every turn over the following three days I seemed to run into either another 50-year-old man in a Limahl wig, or an aspiring Freddie Mercury lookalike.

Fiona and I arrived at the Palmerstown House Estate in County Kildare at around 4 o’clock on Friday, having hired a campervan from Craic ‘n’ Campers in Roscommon.

The excellent, massive venue was already filling up with an eye-catching tapestry of campervans – there were hundreds of them – as festival-starved, middle-aged folks gathered to journey back to their youth, and a golden age of a certain kind of music. A little further on, there were hundreds of people camping in tents. It wasn’t all middle-aged people either; many of the festival-goers over the weekend were younger, some of them not even born until after the peak days of Top of the Pops, Paul Young, Nik Kershaw and Bananarama.

A 10-minute walk from the ‘camper’ took us to the festival site, where the main stage hosted the various original artists, a second stage featuring tribute acts over the course of the weekend.

The first artist we saw was Marti Pellow, former lead singer of Wet Wet Wet. He was sensational, his voice arguably as good as ever. He was charismatic too. Friday evening was really only the appetiser, but it was a very positive start. After a few drinks (€7.50 for a can of Heineken), we chatted to four merry Kildare people, quickly followed by four festival veterans from Sligo. The atmosphere was lovely, Middle-aged Ireland glad to be back socialising and smiling – and reliving their youth!

 

Saturday

Call me an old sentimentalist, but this was a fantastic, fun-filled festival, a wonderful nostalgia trip. Most – not all(!) – of the artists still have some of the magic they had in the 1980s. It was great to see them ‘in the flesh’.

Amongst the stand-out performances on a long, sunny Saturday were Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood renown, The Undertones, Wendy James, and Johnny Hates Jazz. Limahl was in good voice too, his hair today considerably more understated than in his peak. Meanwhile, dozens of men and women in the crowd were sporting that famous hairstyle of the former Kajagoogoo lead singer.

Night-time on ‘Camp Central’ was great craic, with thousands of festival-goers socialising outside their campervans/tents, the atmosphere extremely good-humoured and friendly.

 

Sunday

We placed our chairs amongst the 12,000-strong crowd at 4 pm, and enjoyed over six hours of live music. In a large marquee-type structure, perhaps a thousand people forfeited the chance to see Tony Hadley, in favour of the All-Ireland hurling final, being relayed on a giant screen. After enjoying 20 minutes of Tony, I had to check in on the hurling, where Limerick triumphed in front of a sea of ecstatic green-clad supporters at the Forever Young Festival.

Meanwhile, what a day it was on the main stage. The legendary Buster Bloodvessel (real name: Douglas Trendle) was a high-energy star of the show with Bad Manners. Also on stage at various points were Paul Young, Nick Heyward, Tiffany, Real Thing, Heather Small, and The Blow Monkeys. Bananarama were superb, delivering their greatest hits in style. The festival wrapped up with an excellent hour-long set by OMD.

Incidentally, Dublin Airport’s ‘summer to forget’ even impacted on this festival, with at least three performers – including Holly Johnson – good-humouredly reporting that they had been victims of luggage losses!

All in all, it was a great festival with a tremendous sense of positivity and good humour. Readers might be interested in putting it on their ‘To do’ list next year. We loved it. I have no doubt that every single Limahl – and the guy in the ‘I shot JR’ t-shirt – would agree with me.

*The campervan experience was very enjoyable and relaxing, absolutely ideal for attending an event such as this. We rented from Craic ‘n’ Campers in Roscommon town and they were a pleasure to deal with, providing a very professional service. The campervan itself was spacious, comfortable and ‘state-of-the-art’. It’s great to see a Roscommon-based company providing this service at a time when more and more people are holidaying in Ireland.

 

Monday

It’s almost certain that there’s been no talk of Kajagoogoo – or Bananarama either – in the shadows in Westminster in recent days, with the focus remaining firmly on the Tory leadership race. It’s all rather dull, to be honest. Various unknowns are vying with a few half-knowns to gleefully try and fill the discredited shoes of the Blonde Bombshell.

There are four left in the race as I write, with favourite Rishi Sunak being pursued by Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and outsider Kemi Badenoch. Contrary to entirely predictable claims by slavish MPs that this represents an embarrassment of riches, it strikes me as being more like the Charge of the Light(weight) Brigade. Maybe one of the hopeful foursome will emerge as a great PM, but it’s all rather underwhelming.

On the Channel 4 News this evening, one MP (supporting Mordaunt) let it slip when he said “the big prize is the next election”. I’d have thought the big prize was meant to be short-term stability, leadership (and delivery) for the people of the UK.

 

Tuesday

After the fabulous two-day heatwave, a significant temperature drop today. Not so in London however, where fires are raging in a few locations in the city, this after temperatures there reached 40C for the first time since records began. All quite dramatic and arguably worrying when considered from a climate change perspective, but it was still somewhat scaremongering (and inaccurate) of the Mirror newspaper to run the following front page headline: ‘Britain’s Burning’.

 

Wednesday

If festival-goers couldn’t hide their delight at being out and about at the Forever Young Festival, the same might be expected in local towns and villages over the coming weeks when some of the traditional events which had to be cancelled during the pandemic make a welcome return.

The Castlerea Festival kicks off on Monday next (July 25th) and will run all week – with the Castlerea Agricultural Show following on Monday, August 1st. Meanwhile, the famous Ballygar Carnival also makes a welcome return, beginning on Thursday, 28th of July, and as always featuring an excellent line-up.

The O’Carolan Harp Festival and Summer School takes place from Monday, July 25th to Monday, August 1st.

In the magnificent Sacred Heart Church – a few doors up from our office in Abbey Street – our good friends in the inspirational Roscommon Solstice Choir are hosting a concert in aid of Ukraine this Friday night.

These and other local events will no doubt be very well supported and greatly enjoyed, particularly given the lingering shadow of those Covid-19 lockdowns. We have coverage throughout this issue and also on our social platforms. Congratulations to all the volunteers involved and wishing these and all other community events every success over the coming weeks.

 

Wednesday

As we go to press, that Conservative Party leadership race is down to two…Rishi Sunak will face Liz Truss. I write this not because it is particularly interesting, but just to bring my ‘Monday’ reference up to date. Anyways, either Rishi or Liz will shortly be the new British Prime Minister, and soon enough we’ll be routinely referring to one of them by their first name…Rishi, or Liz!