In July 2007, some friends of mine were playing at a small festival in Wicklow. We went down for the weekend and were stunned to find this tiny vibrant festival split between a small field for camping and a marquee in a pub car park down the road.
No-one was checking wristbands, in fact no-one seemed to be working, yet everything seemed to be magically happening. Some of the bands and people that I met that weekend really left a longing in me to go back to the same affair the next year.
In June 2008, I looked up the festival (Knockanstockan) and found that they were recruiting volunteers. I went along to a meeting and there was a really great energy and I was looking forward to getting involved. I was expecting that I’d be pulling pints or directing traffic in return for my free ticket.
After chatting for a while, I realised that some aspects weren’t organised at all – even though all of the bands were booked, there was no insurance, there was no company to buy the insurance and the plan to bus people between a camping site and a field 3 miles away was a disaster waiting to happen. Oh, and no-one had told the guards that we were planning a festival for 1000 people!
Some friends of mine got involved with me and together we started helping out. Lots of other people were involved and within a few weeks, all of the above problems were solved. In the chaos, I had ended up as a director of Knockanstockan Ltd, and felt the weight of that legal responsibility for safety. I need not have worries, the stages at the venue literally grew out of the ground, there was an incredible buzz in the air, and the passion was dripping off the trees as the sun blazed.
On the weekend itself, over 1,000 people took part in the festival. It was the most tiring and rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I only got to see one band play, from 250. We ran a safe festival, which meant that we could do it the next year and everybody left with great memories and new friends.
If you go to one festival, get yourself to a Knockanstockan.
UPDATE – as well as winning the Best Small Festival in 2008, Knockanstockan swept the boards at the Irish Festival Awards 2012, with 4 awards including Best Small Festival and Best Line Up.