Category: Festivals – First Fortnight

First Fortnight 2015

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Trailblaze Revolution, Christchurch Cathedral

This is a tricky one to write to be honest – I re-read last year’s post (https://gigaholic.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/first-fortnight-2014/) and can vividly remember how I felt writing that post, and during the festival. To be able to remember things so clearly and yet to know how much changed within the space of a year is a little bit disconcerting to be honest.

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Danny Battles

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The Lost Brothers

During 2014 I became much more involved in First Fortnight, having been asked to get involved with a pretty amazing group of people to do fundraising for the charity. Being more involved has let me see how much goes into this festival from the other side, rather than as a volunteer or as a spectator. The fact that this festival has been created by a bunch of volunteers is simply mind-blowing. That said, being more involved makes it challenging to write a review of it, so I’m not even going to attempt it. It’s impossible for me to be unbiased so all I’ll say is if you haven’t been to a First Fortnight event yet, then check out the festival next January, or one of the fundraising events during the year. I think that’s the fairest way of me keeping Gigaholic true to my views but without letting my love of this festival skew any review I wrote of it.

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I Have a Tribe

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State Lights
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Booka Brass Band

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I toyed with using this post as another spot of free therapy, but it a) doesn’t seem fitting, and b) doesn’t really seem needed. This year has given me so much more confidence – it is impossible to see how much can be achieved by a small group of volunteers with some big ideas, without some of that confidence rubbing off. Hard to sum up how grateful I am for that, so I’m not even going to try.

There is a Light album launch

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Biggles Flys Again

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Dylan Tighe

My last gig in May was the album launch for the “There is a Light” collaboration album, launched by Bluestack Records in aid of the brilliant First Fortnight. The album itself is a selection of some of the best Irish acts around at the moment and is downloadable here (http://bluestackrecords.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-a-light), with the bands donating their songs for free to benefit the mental health charity.

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With five of the acts featured on the album performing on the night, the launch was a real treat – and, as I often point out in my posts, a total bargain at €10 (seriously – we, the gig-going population of Ireland, are spoiled with the quality available to watch for half-nothing). A bonus performance by Kevin Nowlan opened the night, followed by Biggles Flys Again, who were their usual brilliant selves. Dylan Tighe was up next, and then Owensie, both of whom mellowed the mood but showed their song-writing skills to spectacular effect. Hidden Highways and The Ambience Affair completed the line-up.

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Hidden Highways

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Kevin Nowlan

I’ve spoken before about First Fortnight and what it stands for, but a brief speech from JP Swaine, director of the charity, turned this from “just another gig” (albeit with an array of local talent) to an opportunity to remind ourselves of what First Fortnight is all about. It aims to challenge the very real stigma around mental health in this country, and to raise awareness of mental health issues. From some of the conversations I had that night, it certainly got a few people thinking. All in all, a great night for a great cause.

 

First Fortnight 2014

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As is rapidly becoming a January tradition for me (and by the look of the crowds, for lots of people!), my first outing of the year was to First Fortnight, Ireland’s mental health arts festival. I’ve talked previously about how amazing I think this festival is, with its mix of music, poetry, art, film and theatre in addition to discussion forums. The fact that year-on-year, this festival has managed to gather growing crowds at a time of year when the tendency is to hibernate, and to keep prices at a level that allows people to come when no-one is feeling flush, is a testament to just how brilliantly organised it is. The growing numbers in attendance mean that the festival is continuing to spread its message of normalising the discussion of mental health in Ireland, and continuing to challenge mental health prejudice through the creative arts. In a country that seems to only be slowly coming to the realisation that talking is important, the open discussion that takes place at the First Fortnight events encourages people to talk but manages to avoid being preachy.

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20140111_215424The Academic (First Fortnight finale gig, Button Factory) – disgustingly talented for ones so young!

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Come on Live Long (First Fortnight finale gig, Button Factory) 20140111_232609

Heathers (First Fortnight finale gig, Button Factory) 20140112_010810 Vann Music (First Fortnight finale gig, Button Factory)

This year, I went to more events than usual. Apart from my traditional trips to the Therapy Sessions music and poetry events, and the Finale gig featuring some of the best Irish acts around at the moment, I went to Silver Linings Playbook followed by a discussion panel and a play so brilliant that I went back to see it again and brought my parents – Confusion Boats (I’m not going to say anything about this other than that I think Ger Kelly, writer and star, is a serious talent, and that everyone should go see it!).

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Laura Elizabeth Hughes (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 1, Workmans Club) 20140103_220914

Ger Kelly (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 1, Workmans Club) – he writes, he acts, he sings, is there nothing he can’t do? 20140103_222935

Mark Geary (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 1, Workmans Club) 20140103_234247Daithi (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 1, Workmans Club) – disappointingly small crowd hung around for his set, which was brilliant as always

I also did some volunteering at the festival for the first time this year. From freezing my arse off at Happy Clouds to getting a chance to see the Poetry Slam, the Milk and Cookies storytelling and baking evening, and the No Room at the Inn mental health service discussion forum – volunteering at this festival was such a privilege. Tiring, but a privilege! The organisers are the nicest, most hard working group of people you’ll ever meet. The fact that this group of my peers (they are normal people, with day jobs, who organise this festival on a voluntary basis) can achieve something so amazing – well, it is humbling, inspirational and just a little bit intimidating!

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Susan Quirke (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 2, Workmans Club) – she may have been nervous but she played a belter of a set

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Evie Murtagh (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 2, Workmans Club) – another terrifyingly talented youngster 20140110_222700

Idiot Sounds (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 2, Workmans Club) – slightly more alternative than I could deal with, I’m afraid 20140110_230745Tara Lee (First Fortnight Therapy Sessions 2, Workmans Club)

In last year’s blog (https://gigaholic.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/first-fortnight-2013/), I touched on why this festival means so much to me, and now that I’ve had a chance to be involved in it in a small way, it means even more. The next piece of this post is something I’ve struggled with – I just couldn’t decide whether to include it or not. I’ve never revealed a huge amount of personal information in this blog, and this was deliberate. Last year’s First Fortnight post was probably the most I’ve spoken about myself here but I felt that in the spirit of what the festival is all about, it was appropriate. And I still feel like, when it comes to First Fortnight, sharing honestly is the least I can do.

 

So, in that spirit, here goes. While I’ve had my issues (haven’t we all?), I’ve been lucky that they have never been too severe, in the greater scheme of things. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t almost cripple me with self-doubt at times – trust me, my brain is often my own worst enemy. I really wanted to sign up to volunteer for First Fortnight for quite some time, but I had to think long and hard about whether I was actually up to it. While I’ve made huge strides in working on myself and my confidence from my lowest point at the end of 2012, I still have my bad patches. The last thing I wanted to do to the First Fortnight organisers was sign up and then back out, which is my pattern when things get too much – but I decided it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone. If I’m honest, I was so nervous on my first day volunteering that I didn’t know whether I wanted to cry or puke, and nearly turned back so many times. I’m sure the people who met me at that first event probably thought I was some kind of mute – nope, not mute, just terrified. But it got easier, and easier, with each event I helped at – luckily, I helped out at quite a few events, so my lasting memory is of how much fun I had, and not how scared and out-of-place I felt initially. The people running this festival are so welcoming, the other volunteers were a lovely bunch, and I am going to be the first in line to sign up to volunteer again next year.

 

If anyone has actually bothered to read until the end of this blog, well done – I think I’d have given up long ago if I wasn’t writing it! Thanks for sticking with it, and letting me share, even though it doesn’t really fit in with what Gigaholic is about. And if anyone who made it this far happens to be a part of First Fortnight, I hope you know how amazing what you’ve created is. From the fact that I look forward to the festival every January, to the fact that I often take a different route to work just so that I can see Maser’s You Are Alive wall on Camden St, First Fortnight has really got under my skin. I don’t think I can express how much being involved in First Fortnight 2014 meant to me, mainly for the amazing festival it is, but also for proving to myself that despite being terrified, I could do it. So, thank you. It’s not enough, but it’s all I can say – thank you. Roll on First Fortnight 2015!

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Stuart Semple’s Happy Clouds (First Fortnight, Meeting House Square)

First Fortnight 2013

2013 began with the First Fortnight festival – two weeks aimed at challenging mental health prejudice through creative arts. This year I went to far more of the diverse arts events on offer than I had in previous years, when I tended to stick more closely to the music events. The Therapy Sessions had a brilliant mix of music and spoken word artists; Solpadeine is my Boyfriend and Silent reawakened my love of theatre in two very different ways (Silent has stuck with me since in so many ways); Please Can You Make Some Noise for Mental Health gave a safe forum for discussion with Stuart Semple in particular sharing in such an open way about his battles with mental health difficulties; and No Kidding, Me Too! shared Joey Pantaliano’s experience of addiction and depression.

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Tara Lee, Dylan Tighe, Verse Chorus Verse and Heathers at Therapy Sessions 1

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Mumblin Deaf Ro and This Club at Therapy Session 2

As usual, the musical finale was a highlight, not only because after seeing them work so hard for the entire festival, it was nice to see the organisers and volunteers let their hair down!

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Vann Music, Kopek, We Cut Corners, and Le Galaxie at the finale gig

I have spoken in previous posts about how amazing I think this festival is, but I have to admit that this year’s festival hit a particular nerve with me. 2012 marked a particularly low period for me and ended with me finally getting professional help to get through it. First Fortnight came just weeks after admitting to my family at Christmas how much I had been struggling for a long time, and how successfully I had kept it hidden from them. So to say there were a few layers of skin missing around that time would be an understatement. Seeing a festival such as this pushing to get mental health into people’s everyday conversations proved to be a real turning point for me, and I have since been far more open about my own experiences, and far more open to hearing about others’.

First Fortnight 2012 part two

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Le Galaxie at the Button Factory

#2 I will say this for the organisers of First Fortnight – for their big Button Factory gig, they definitely go for an eclectic mix of acts! Cashier No 9 were on too early for me, and I only made it in time for Royseven and Le Galaxie. I reckon I’d find it difficult to think of two more disparate acts!

While Royseven are brilliant at what they do – radio friendly, unbelievably catchy pop – I was disappointed by the similarity of their set to the set I’d already seen them do at Sea Sessions and the Academy in 2011. There was some sense of going through the motions, right down to the flag bearing, but I may be being too critical.

I’ve a huge soft spot for Le Galaxie and they are rapidly becoming a staple for me – a guaranteed night of dancing led by their own exuberant on stage antics. Catch these guys live if you get the chance.

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Royseven at the Button Factory

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Le Galaxie at the Button Factory

 *Originally posted on http://www.gigaholic.tumblr.com on 01/08/12*

First Fortnight 2012

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The Late Fragments at the Workmans Club

#1 My first gig of 2012 set a nice tone for me, and a sense of continuity from 2011. First Fortnight, a charity challenging mental health stigma through the arts, is a cause close to my heart. People close to me have been affected by mental health difficulties, and I have experienced them myself.

The positivity employed in this whole two week festival speaks volumes to me and I think that this is the only way Ireland will move on from the difficulties its population has with discussing mental health. The Therapy Sessions was a brilliant mix of music and spoken word, and the small crowd added a sense of intimacy to the occasion.

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Pearse McLoughlin at the Workmans Club
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Our amazing pledge t-shirts

*Originally posted on http://www.gigaholic.tumblr.com on 01/08/12*

First Fortnight 2011

Le Galaxie
Le Galaxie at First Fortnight 2011

#3 – Later in January 2011, I headed to First Fortnight to see Le Galaxie on the recommendation of my housemate at the time. Little did he know what he would start – I’ve been lucky enough to catch many more of these fabulously mental lads’ shows since then.

I have to admit that electronic music had never featured strongly on my playlist, as I have always had a tendency to gravitate towards more guitar driven acts. I had listened to whatever music of theirs that I could get my hands on prior to heading to the Button Factory, but was totally unprepared for their live show. They set a high bar for the acts that followed – Dark Room Notes, Codes and And So I Watch You From Afar – and I don’t think anyone else lived up to their standards.

Again, my crappy phone camera doesn’t do justice to the buzz of that gig, and to the addiction that was beginning to grow.

*Originally posted on http://www.gigaholic.tumblr.com on 06/06/12*