Uisneach Inn, Killare, Co Westmeath – Bealtaine, May 4/5 2013

Festival of the Fires 2011 – first details

Festival of the Fires 2011 is to be ignited on the Hill of Uisneach in Co Westmeath and at over 100 sites nationwide at Bealtaine, the dawn of the summer on Saturday April 30th until the morning of Sunday May 1st.

We can confirm that the musical headliners for the event are The Saw Doctors. This will be the ONLY appearance in the Midlands this year for Ireland’s best-loved band. Their latest album “Further Adventures Of The Saw Doctors” was recorded in Westmeath last year and the band are greatly looking forward to returning to Westmeath for this iconic festival.

Vastly accredited for their storming exuberant live shows, The Saw Doctor’s substantial phalanx of hardcore fans on both sides of the Atlantic has never wavered in support.  Their last album showed they are a band withstanding the odds of the current music age, who still know how to recreate and procreate the tunes that put them were they are now part of Irelands elite, well-known and most loved bands of the past two decades.

The Saw Doctors look up to Uisneach

The festivals three music stages on the historic Hill of Uisneach will feature the best of Irish and international talent, drawn from all genres. Full details will be released shortly. We can also confirm a very special appearance from an international folk legend whose name will be unveiled shortly. At least two dozen other big acts have been lined up for the festival, and many of these names will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Of course, Festival of the Fires is about much more than just music, and its centrepiece is a night-time parade to the summit of the Hill of Uisneach where the main fire ceremony takes place. That parade will once again be led by the award-winning LUXe group, led by Mandy and Mark Blinco, from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal. They will be working conjunction with local art groups. The talented LUXe group have been working on the concept for the 2011 Festival since last May, and many elements of the spectacular parade will be previewed when the group take to the streets of Dublin for the St Patrick’s Day Parade. They have won numerous awards at this parade, and their expertise and attention to detail promises to make the Uisneach parade their most spectacular creation yet.

A rebirth of Bealtaine, Ireland’s most ancient festival, Festival of the Fires is to become a great iconic national event, one which will truly unite the country and it’s Diaspora in celebration.

Over the May Bank Holiday 2010 the rekindled festival saw over 25,000 participants celebrate free events on 74 sites nationwide, with the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath the epicentre. Here at the true residence of the Irish High Kings, 4,800 ticketholders attended and were entertained by acts as diverse as Kíla, Sharon Shannon, Mundy, Jerry Fish and much more besides. The festival culminated with a spectacular fire ceremony and night-time parade to the summit. Until this year, the Bealtaine festival had not been celebrated to such a scale in over 1,400 years.

In 2011 the festival will simultaneously take place in all 32 counties with over 100 beacon fires lit in each in response to the main Uisneach fire.

Located at the exact centre point of Ireland the Hill of Uisneach is the place where the High Kings, Tribe and Church Leaders met. The Goddess Ériu, after whom the island is named, is buried underneath the famous ‘Aill na Muireann’ (aka the Catstone) monument. Currently on a UNESCO shortlist for World Heritage Status , Uisneach is a place that attracted Egyptians up the Shannon and was mentioned by Caesar in Gaul. De Dannan, Fionn MacCumhaill, Brian Boru, St Patrick, Daniel O’Connell, De Valera and Pearse were all visitors here, and it is said the stones for Stonehenge were taken from Uisneach by Pendragon and Merlin. From its summit, one can see 21 counties.

The festival has history, heritage, community, arts, culture and music and ceremony as its main goals and we want to foster a new appreciation of many of Ireland’s heritage sites and their local communities by bringing the festival to the people rather than bringing people to the festival. The main goal of Festival of the Fires is to raise awareness of the Hill of Uisneach and its place in Irish history. After the main event the festival organisers are hoping to open the historic hill to organised tour groups, and to host events all-year round.

Special heritage trails to showcase the wonderful and varied history of Uisneach will take place all over the Bank Holiday weekend, and lectures from some of the world’s top historians will form a key part of the weekend events.

Once again, art installations on the Hill will add to the unique nature of this event, and Artistic Director Patsy Preston is looking for artists wishing to take part. They are invited to email info@festivalofthefires.com. A prize fund of €5000 is being made available to artists to display their outdoor work on the hill. Local schools and colleges are being encouraged to take part.

A unique festival village will offer festival goers artisan food and drink from throughout the region and the country. A special Holistic Village is to be established in a new healing field, and practitioners are welcome to contact the festival office for more details.

A special lakeside campsite is being set up for festival goers to make their Uisneach experience an even longer-lasting one, and many more special attractions will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Festival of the Fires is a family-friendly event, and OAP’s and Children Under 12 will be allowed free admission to the event. Registration for these complimentary tickets will open shortly.

General tickets for the festival went on sale this week at the early bird price of €30, with camping tickets on sale at €40.

Tickets are on sale from all Ticketmaster outlets and from www.ticketmaster.ie


The Saw Doctors-  A Biography

Davy Carton: Vocals, Guitar

Leo Moran: Guitars, Vocals

Anthony Thistlethwaite: Bass Guitar, Saxophone

Kevin Duffy: Keyboards, Vocals

Éimhín Cradock: Drums, Vocals

The Saw Doctors is a group of songwriting musicians from the West of Ireland, hell-bent on celebrating, observing, recording and sometimes poking fun at their own locality, accent and idiomatic use of language whilst dressing their songs up in their favourite sounds and styles from their years of musical fandom.

Formed in Tuam,  really a small market town but in fact a tiny city of two cathedrals, in the late 1980’s, originally with Mary O’Connor as the main singer and later based around the songs and singing of Davy Carton, Leo Moran, Padraig Stevens, John ‘Turps’ Burke with no little contribution from the late Paul Cunniffe (who had written and sang Davy’s previous band, Blaze X’s, repertoire with him)

The Saw Doctors were discovered by Mike Scott of The Waterboys on a stormy Wintry Tuesday night in Galway city, plying their trade with more gumption than virtuosity in the back of The Quays Bar, blue banger slates clattering down treacherously on the narrow, deserted streets outside leading to where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Scott took an unlikely liking to the unlikely bunch of raggedy and fashion-unconscious triers and offered them the support slot on what was, at that time, the most revered up-coming rock and roll tour of the country. Things must’ve somehow pleased the Scot along the way and in Sligo, before the tour was completed, he offered the itinerant songsmiths the six-week Spring tour of Great Britain, starting in February 1989. Padraig’s coy acceptance of the offer came in four words

‘We’ll pencil it in.’

With Pearse Doherty, the bassist since the start of the Irish tour, in his last year in Science in Galway University and Davy working as a fitter and the father of three young boys, the youngest awaiting holy water and a name, things were not pure and simple. The philosophy adopted was – ‘Let’s not end up looking back in twenty years time telling people in a pub what we could have done wan time’

That decided, Pearse’s mother smuggled his good bass down from Donegal (his father didn’t know he was in a band) and Pearse packed his science books with the rest of his gear so he could do some study along the way(!!!)  Davy asked for six weeks off work and was promptly told by his boss that if he took six weeks off he could have every week afterwards off as well. Davy courageously chose to take the six weeks and flew over to London a couple of days later than the rest of us, Christopher having now been christened, for the start of an epic escapade.

Mike fulfilled his tour-time offer and produced the band’s first single, ‘N17’, which features the then Waterboys’ saxophonist, and now Saw Doctors’ bass player, Anthony Thistlethwaite, in the outro; it was a feat of indescribable dimensions how a man could play a sax so well after being in the pub all day.

The single got on the radio a handful of times and a second single was to be released to fulfill the two-record deal with Solid Records. With Philip Tennant, whom they had met through Mike and who had engineered ‘N17’, now on the producer’s perch, they went to the haunted Loco Studios in Wales and put down three tracks – ‘It Won’t Be Tonight’, ‘I Useta Lover’ and ‘Sing A Powerful Song’. After debates, theories and shit-talk, it was eventually decided that ‘I Useta Lover’ would be the second release from The Saw Doctors. They plugged away at gigs around Ireland and scored an early afternoon slot at the coming-of-age Irish festival of its time, Féile, in Thurles, in County Tipperary, in the August of 1990,. The Welsh ghost must have brought them luck for that Sunday evening they learnt that ‘I Useta Lover’ had somehow entered the Irish single charts from where it slowly climbed, taking seven weeks to reach the Number One spot and remaining on top for the following nine weeks. The Saw Doctors were now known the length and breath of the country and beyond.

Things got fast. A Channel 4, Steve Lock directed, documentary, ‘Sing A Powerful Song’, was shot in Manchester and at their homecoming gig in the Gaelic Football Stadium in Tuam, and it aired in both Britain and Ireland. They made their first trip to The United States in 1991, a journey they have made almost eighty times since.

Through the nineties they chalked up well-received appearances at numerous prestigious festivals including Witnness, Oxegen and Slane in Ireland, Glastonbury, T in the Park, the London Fleadh in Britain as well as at its Fleadh cousins across the Atlantic in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and garnered a reputation for being a powerful and exciting live band, playing diligently through Ireland, Britain and the USA, with the odd trip to Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Holland, France and Belgium thrown in. A handful of singles briefly dented the Charts through the nineties, the three most successful breaking into the Top 20‘Small Bit Of Love’, ‘To Win Just Once’ and ‘World Of Good’.

With four studio albums in their record shop section, ‘If This Is Rock And Roll I Want My Old Job Back’, ‘All The Way From Tuam’, ‘Same Oul’ Town’ and ‘Songs From Sun Street’, The Saw Doctors went where no band had ever gone before and bravely entered the new millennium. Upheaval in the line-up saw long-time drummer John Donnelly and long-time bassist Pearse Doherty move on, joined shortly afterwards by keyboardist Derek Murray and the team-sheet took a while to settle again, with first Jim Higgins and then Fran Breen occupying the drumstool and Kevin Duffy pressing the black and white keys. For a number of tours a brass section with Danny Healy on trumpet and Richie Buckley on sax augmented the show, as well as the addition of Mouse McHugh on backing vocals. They released their sixth studio album, ‘The Cure’, recorded in Cuan Studios in Spiddal, near Galway and were presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Meteor Awards of 2008, with the current line-up of Davy Carton, Leo Moran, Anthony Thistlethwaite, Kevin Duffy and Éimhín Cradock.

Throughout the noughties The Saw Doctors gained an ever-increasing and enthusiastic following on the Irish college scene, ensuring a young and lively new  audience in their home country. In 2008 they filmed a documentary, “Clare Island to Cape Cod’, the centerpiece being their, by then, eagerly anticipated annual August appearance at the Melody Tent in Hyannis, Mass, revolving on the stage, surrounded in 360° by banks of loud and sweaty Summertime fans.

This outfit has developed into, what many believe, is as good, if not better, than any before; with their distinctive version of ‘About You Now’, The Sugababes’ hit, a chance cover  from the ‘Rockin’ Roulette’ section of The Podge and Rodge Show on Ireland’s national TV station, RTÉ, the band scored their first Irish Number One since ‘Hay Wrap’, seventeen years previous. Over the following year and a half this squad recorded the band’s seventh studio album – ‘The Further Adventures Of The Saw Doctors’ which is probably their most consistent collection of songs to date, barely  making it into the ‘record shops’ before the concept of an album, and the outlets that sell them, veer dangerously close to becoming obsolete.

Loved and revered by their loyal fans, many of whom have been recruited by already fan friends, or friends of friends of fans, if you know what I mean, and often reviled by haughty urban-based media style council as being too rural (Tuam!), painting pictures that the begrudgers believe, from their lofty perspective, don’t exist in the real world, the band continues with a resilience and an effervescent energy that has them lined-up in the Spring of 2011 for a eighteen-date coast-to-coast tour of the US, a trip around Britain in April and a collage of festivals currently being discussed and confirmed for the Summer of 2011, including Scotland’s T in the Park and an appearance at the twentieth anniversary of the legendary London Fleadh.

In their own words…..

‘Born into a repressed, catholic, conservative, small-town,

agrarian, angst-ridden and showband infested society

we’re trying to preserve the positive elements of our

background and marry them to the sounds which have

culturally invaded our milieu through TV, radio, 45’s, fast

food restaurants, 24 hour petrol stations and electric


4 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Karen

    Hi i had a stand at last years event and am looking to book space and rent a gazebo
    I am a holistic healer and make my own organic remedies,so the space woukld be in the holistic field
    Regards Karen

    Mar 12, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  2. chloe

    yeath goin now cant wait ill b gud dis yr like last year …..:) :D

    Apr 30, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  3. chloe

    :D :)

    Apr 30, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  4. chloe

    :) :D :P :B

    Apr 30, 2011 @ 12:04 pm