Great Gas and a Duvet Day – Helium Festival & An International Quilt Shindig


Hollywood me bollix! Say hello to the Ballymahon crew at Helium

There’s usually little signs an indicators that you can pick up on that will tell you whether or not you’re going to enjoy a particular festival. The mood of security staff, the helpfulness of your fellow punters or bands sticking around in front of the stage to catch other acts after they’ve finished their own set. Sitting in Wanderly Wagon on a scorcher of an afternoon making lunch and having the neighbours from the van next-door call over to offer some rhubarb and blueberry vodka is definitely a good sign. Watching members of Kila catch O Emperor’s set before their own and watching Wallis Bird enjoying The Stunning were positive indicators too, but not as intoxicating as the fruity vodka. Yum! MayKay and Fight like Apes have played more festivals than Tulisa has had contracts revoked, but MayKay commented that is was rare to get treated so well and receive such friendly attention as that they enjoyed last weekend. Tulisa wasn’t available for comment. What’s surprising is that this festival holds less than 2,000 people and all the profits go to charity. Helium is definitely one of the good ones.


Willy isn’t taking any bull

I have to admit that I was taken aback to find the gig was at the back of a pub, but once I went out there and saw the set-up my mind was put at ease. There was a barn type space for the smaller local acts, a smallish courtyard type effort for the medium size bands and a main-stage out in a high walled field for the headliners. It was a decent venue that was well kitted out to deal with the crowd that was expected. In last weekend’s blistering sunshine, they were slow to arrive, many opting to get “in the mood” in the campsite up the road, but they piled in eventually and things kicked off nicely.


O Emperor ruling the stage

At the No Ego Stage (the middle sized one) David Kitt and O Emperor stood out as class acts. The surprising thing about the gig in Ballymahon was the quality on offer for such a small event. I could have swore I saw Luke “Ming” Flanagan strolling through the crowd at one stage, but by the time I grabbed the camera he was gone, was probably off to the bog. i hope he wasn’t driving home :-\


Wallis Bird in full flight

It’s impressive what Wallis Bird can do onstage on her own with just her acoustic guitar for company. She thumps out her tunes, driving the audience on with her energy and what she deals out is built for an afternoon festival stage. She threw every ounce of herself into the performance to get our blood racing and psych us all up nicely for what was to follow.


Kila giving it stick

Kila have been at this game for a while now and I’m still not tired of seeing them take to the stage in festival fields. They know how to get a crowd hopping and when they started lashing out the head banging trad, the crowd responded appropriately. These old pros got the party started proper. Down on the No Ego Stage Fight Like Apes were also whipping up the punters, but they’re starting to feel a little flat to me. When MayKay fell to the floor to writhe around on the deck, I couldn’t help but feel it was in the same place in the set that she did the same thing at Camden Crawl. Is this well rehearsed quirkiness? Surprisingly after Kila’s thumping set, The Stunning kept the crowd up and provided the money-shot with Brewing Up a Storm and then led a good old fashioned sing-along to a Dylan classic to top off the night.


A message for the Ballymahon Boys

The bands provide the entertainment and draw the punters, but it’s the heads that you meet that make a festival sink or swing, and this one swang. There was plenty of drinking going on, but it never got too messy or felt out of control. Back at the campsite the session kept going well into Sunday morning and by the time we eventually dragged ourselves away from the sing-song, there were hugs and handshakes all round. They’re a good bunch. The sound at the stages was pretty ropey at times, Hermitage Green’s soundcheck was a penance and Ronán from Kila wasn’t comfortable up there at all during some of their set,  but they all persevered and the show carried on. If you’re going to hit one of the bigger festivals this summer, I heartily recommend heading to a few of these type of do’s too. At €40 for entry and camping, it’s not going to break the bank and if nothing else it’s good training, don’t underestimate that festival fitness ;-)

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Paintings, collage or tapestries? Nope. Quilts!

Last year I got a picture sent to me from Galway that displayed a poster for the “International Quilt Festival of Ireland” and Noel jokingly asked if I was going to go for a gawp. I missed it last year, but as I was in the neighbourhood, kinda, I decided to swing by this year and as much as I thought I’d never find myself saying this, here it goes – I enjoyed the quilt festival! But ssshhhh. Don’t tell anyone.

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Imagine how hard it is to get up when you’ve a dolmen on top of you

The craft, detail, scale, colour and intricacy of the quilts on display in NUIG were pretty impressive and what was even more impressive were the crowds of people who had traveled from all over the world especially to come to this quilty party in Galway City. Last year there were 6,500 visitors. I was amazed with the dedication of the people who make the things, but also of the enthusiasts who must be fairly passionate about this pursuit if they’re willing to come from Scandinavia, America, Canada and Mexico. It’s an underground movement yo!

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That’s the new curtains for Wanderly Wagon sorted. A Moosaic? 

It wasn’t just your traditional patchwork efforts either, there were themed sections for the competitions, taking seascapes and other grandiose inspirations for their designs. One of my favourite displays was the mens competition, which featured some pretty outlandish designs, including some heavy metal bed-spreads. Ozzy has to sleep too you know.

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Sleeping under sheet metal

There was a very odd section that I nearly walked past as I thought it was just a novelty. It had a fake security dude out the front and a sign the proclaimed it to be a prison. Shortly after entering you realised that this was no joke, the quilts in here were designed by inmates of Limerick Prison and some of them had a very dark edge to them. This quilt session was a bizarre affair.

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Sweet dreams? 

The pleasure of being able to buzz around the country in my van was highlighted last weekend when I was under my own quilt recovering after Helium. Having stayed up far too late/early I was extremely dismayed to be woken by somebody who had filled their boot with a subwoofer, parked nearby and decided it would be a great idea to treat the neighbouring campers to “Boom Boom Boom” by the Outthere Brothers at the ungodly hour of 11AM. In normal circumstances this would lead to friction, but I simply checked the lie of the land, left down the hand-brake, rolled down the field to a new neighbourhood, pulled up the hand-brake again and went back to sleep with a smile on my face. I’m getting good at this camping lark ;-)

Safe Travels, Don’t Die.

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About festivalmonkey

Blogging the quest to attend 3 festivals a week in Ireland for a whole year. Impossible I hear you say... possibly!


2 thoughts on “Great Gas and a Duvet Day – Helium Festival & An International Quilt Shindig

  1. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan was most certainly there, tweeted about it and all!

    Posted by Alison | June 12, 2013, 10:29 PM

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