Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Pat McCabe at the Butty Barn, Flat Lake 2008

As you do at any outdoor festival of its kind, at Flat Lake we spent a lot of time wandering from tent to tent, and exploring the beautiful grounds of Hilton Park. The site wasn’t huge so it was easy to find a quiet place to walk down by the lake or among the trees. The food and bar areas were along the side of the main house, and our only complaint was the scarcity of good vegetarian food. We had some Reggae Soup at one point, and chips late at night, but otherwise there were just noodles at €7 a pop. Luckily, as guests, we were being fed soup, sambos, tea and scones at intervals.

Anyway, back to the gigs. We happened upon a few performance poets; I’m not a huge fan of performance poetry, mainly because it is often so badly done, but these women were good. First up was Whatsername who wore a skirt with the words ‘Psychotic Tendencies’ stencilled on it. She had a combative but chatty between-poem style and her poems themselves were hilarious diatribes against society, men and herself. She lamented trying to bring her sons up as ‘right-minded, vegetarian eco-terrorists’ to find them as teenagers hooked on Playstation, Coke and Tesco sausages. She talked of single parenthood as ‘the Lidl of lifestyle choices’ and she maintained the death of feminism was caused by the Spice Girls. She knows, of course, feminism isn’t dead, but I knew what was she was getting at.

Next up on the same stage were the Poetry Chicks, a duo, who riffed through three pieces on the destruction of our landscape, a cursing Donegal Granny, and how one of them – the Scottish one – hates Rabbie Burns. All very energetic, well put-together and performed, and funny.

Off for another wander then to the Art Car Boot Sale and I bought a small, surreal watercolour called ‘Flying Fish’ by figurative artist Joan Mallon. A bargain at €15. Where would you get it?!

My reading was at 3pm in the Hilton Palladium, which was the theatre stage and it was tucked below the house, among the trees. Most events on Sunday were delayed because most people were too hungover to get up it seems, but mine didn’t start too late as no one turned up to take part in the Tell the Best Lie competition which was to be on before me. Clearly all Flat Lake punters are very honest…

Fellow Galway writers Mike McCormack and Hugo Kelly came along to support me, as well as Stinging Fly editor Declan Meade – thanks guys! – and a scattering of strangers. The stage was low and straw covered, and I couldn’t really see the audience with the bright lights, but I felt comfortable and the reading went off well. My ‘Writers’ Rooms’ poem (after The Guardian photos) went down well, garnering its own round of applause.

We had to forgo Edna O’Brien’s interview but, as I just heard her in June, I didn’t mind too much. So we packed up and hit the road, happy with all we’d seen and heard, and already planning next year’s visit to the weird and wonderful world of the Flat Lake.


BarbaraS said...

Good to hear your reading went well. All the other events sound really good too. Pity about the Tell the best lie competition. One could say that that is what writers do... *wink*

Women Rule Writer said...

Indeed. And there were lots of crossed wires and silly conversations about lying while I waited to go on.

How did Jackie get on? Alas, I didn't make it to her reading.

I said I'd only one complaint, but in fact I have two. The programme was not detailed enough; it was just a list of names and times. So unless someone was famous, and you were aware of their art form, it was difficult to know what people were going to do. Making it hard to choose from the clashing events.

PJ Nolan said...

Jaypers McCabe's getting fierce gray! Sounds like a lot of fun. Hope to make it next year. Had to settle for a wander round the Festival of World Cultures on Sunday instead. Saw a small bit of the poetry slam. Not impressive.