Hitching… To the Ballinamore Fringe Festival

Leitrim_Flag_150Had the pleasure of making my way to Leitrim on Friday, the 23rd of August… I was gigging in Ballinamore

Got the train down from Dublin. After oversleeping through the four alarms I had set, and eradicating any chance I had of a nice leisurely journey to Leitrim. I woke up at 12:30. My aim to get up at 9:30 had failed. Which left me legging it to Connolly Station to get the 13:05 train, instead of walking to the 11:05.

I arrived at Connolly Station at 13:04, with a quick glance at the timetables I figured where to go and with no ticket ran up to the lads collecting tickets, told them ‘I’d pay for it on the train’ and fair play to the lads, they waved me through. I was on the 13:05 train down to Carrick – on – Shannon, confidently unsure of how I was going to make it to Ballinamore.

The train was grand, read a book. Dodged the ticket guy. Being a broke comedian, any chance I have to save a few bob, I’m jumping at. I had 20 quid to last me the night… the ticket was €22. So when the ticket checker got close the urge to go for a slash presented itself, and I had to answer its call. I found the toilet. I don’t mess with Mother Nature. And would you believe it, to my surprise, when I got back to my seat, the checker had checked passed my seat. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the ticket collector.

With a good few pages read, and a lovely quick view of Longford, the train arrived at Carrick – on – Shannon.

Upon arrival the drizzle stopped I set out to find a way to Ballinamore. After asking a few passengers from the train about how to get into town, I was directed, yet still unsure.

There was a hen party chatting to a taxi man named Tom, I asked Tom how to get to Ballinamore, he said he would give me a lift there for a tenner; happy days. Had a smoke with the hen party, a lovely group of girls from Dublin, one of them was getting married… 5 of them weren’t… and they were all sisters. The mother was there as well.

Tom and I took the front seats and the girls flocked into the back, revved up for a good weekend on the piss. They were hooting and hollering, taking pictures; one even complemented my good growth. Sadly she was referring to my facial hair, and/or the hair on my head…

After the hen party was dropped off, and good wishes wished, Tom and I headed off to Ballinamore.

Tom had mentioned that he would try and get me out to town before he had to be back at the train station, and even more importantly, before his boss called. I thought nothing off it, thinking that Ballinamore was only up the road. We’ll be there in no time, I thought…

Tom’s boss called about 10 minutes up the road… Tom and I were chatting away, shooting the shit, having a great time. Tom explained where he was headed to the boss man; the mood was no longer chipper. Tom pulled into a drive and told me, that in order for me to get to Ballinamore in the taxi that I was currently in, the one that told me Ballinamore for a tenner, it would cost me €35. I told Tom thanks a million, gave him a fiver, got out of the taxi, and with a hand shake and best wishes wished, I started walking. It was only 19km to Ballinamore. That’s only up the road… I thought. 

Walking on the side of country roads is great craic, cars whizzing by at speeds that seem like lasers, me with my thumb in the air walking backwards towards town.

I walked for a good while, about 45 minutes, Sean from Ballinamore picked me up. Sean was altogether indifferent about the fringe festival. The Family Festival had been the week before, ‘has been going for 57-years’ Sean revered. Sean Quinn had opened the Family Festival. Sean wasn’t sure who opened the Free Fringe Festival.

We talked about the Rolling StonesBeatles, dispute, one must always pick a side. I’m a Stones guy, Sean was a Beatles guys and, also a big fan of Kings of Leon, and Franz Ferdinand, thanks to his daughter’s recommendations and guidance.

We arrived in Ballinamore laughing away, was a candid chat into town, realizing along the way that it would have taken at least 5-6 hours for me to walk into town, it wasn’t up the road whatsoever. With a hand shake and best wishes wished, I got out and headed into the Fringe Office.

The Fringe Office was located in an older house in town. I went back in to the office in the office, and was given my meal ticket and a program. On the way out I ran into Tracy Murray the organizer of the Fringe Festival, a lovely woman from Edinburgh. We got chatting away and the gig was most likely going to be pushed back later to ensure a good crowd. No bother, I said. Dinner was at 18:30, free meal in the future… delighted, I headed off to find a place to work out a set. It was a bit after four and I was in Ballinamore.

Walked up and down the streets, called into a pub where a band was rocking away to a good crowd, meandered up the street a bit more, then walked back the way and found the pub I would be gigging at that evening. Lawrence’s. Was a dark auld style pub, a good country pub, there was a few locals in, I took a seat at the bar, ordered a Guinness and took out my notebook. Pints were €3.90. It was nice to be back in the country.

I worked away on a set; Fintan Harvey landed in, a comedian from Derry, and the organizer of the gig. He was off for a kip, had been a late one the night before. I kept drinking in Lawrence’s. Was a good pint. The Racing was on, I had no money to bet, but horse racing is a great backdrop for drinking.

I can sit at the bar and pretend what it would have been like if I had gone with my gut, ran down to the bookies and put a bet on the horse that had just won, the 40-1 horse, that had fallen in 5 out of 5 previous races… ‘I knew it! I fucking knew it, the horse was talking to me! I knew it: ‘Terminally Useless’, 40-1, I’ll remember that name for the future. If I had put a tenner on her I would have four hundred and ten quid in my pocket right now… For fuck sake! Always go with your first instinct! Oh, ‘Dangerously Doubtful’ is getting 26-1…? 

It was easy to keep myself entertained in a Lawrence’s, the banter was flying around the shop, horses running like hell on the screen, pints going down swimmingly.

I had three pints, a few chats with the locals, fella named Frank who knew a few from Connemara, ‘good people down that way’, he said. My big smiley Clifden head agreed.

Half 6 came around, I headed down to McGirl’s Barn, (named after John Joe McGirl), where dinner was being served; rice and chicken was on the menu. The food was delicious. I hadn’t eaten yet and went back for seconds and thirds. Can’t beat a bit a soakage. There were bands playing the whole time, was an energetic atmosphere, animated to

Met up with a few of the other comedians. Mark Cahill, Emmanuel Emman Idama, and Waki were on the bill. Around 9 we all headed down to Lawrence’s with a good crowd following. At 9:30 the gig kicked off to a packed pub. An eclectic crown of locals, rockers and comedians were in, old and young. Fintan Harvey kicked off the night. I was on next…

With a good applause and few old fellas chatting at the bar, I took the stage and had some banter. Frank was chatting away, we had a laugh, the wavy crowd chilled out; was good craic, an enjoyable gig, Got Em’ Laughing in Leitrim. I’d gotten my first fringe festival performance of the year, in Ballinamore.

The crowd was up for it and the other lads did well, laughs and pints were flying around the shop, an up beat vibe lingered the whole night.

With a looming journey back to Dublin, we headed for the door. With hands shook, best wishes wished, and pints finished, my first gig in Leitrim was complete. 16 more counties to go…

“Ballinamore Free Fringe Festival is an Irish local voluntary non profit organization solely dedicated to promoting Community & cultural diversity through the arts.  We fundamentally believe that facilitating freedom of creative expression, especially for young people, will help to refocus our concerns and positively connect communities.

 Our aims are not only to promote & encourage local and national, amateur/professional and multicultural talent in all its diverse forms. Particularly to facilitate free performance space and therefore inspire communities to embrace & celebrate the wealth of talent that exists all around them.

 Find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/ballinamorefreefringe

Article by:

Connor McDonough-Flynn







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