To the disappointment of its many fans, the popular Festival of the Fires has been cancelled for this year to allow the site at the Hill of Uisneach to recover.
A statement released this week by the organisers of the iconic festival said the decision had been taken due to “agricultural and archaeological reasons”, as the venue needed time to recover.
However the festival, which has run for the past four years since 2009, plans to return the following year.
“The Hill of Uisneach is a sacred site of supreme national importance, and she needs a year off, particularly after a year of bad weather. Festival of the Fires, a rekindling of Ireland’s oldest known festival, reborn to great international acclaim in 2009, will return in 2014.”
However, a number of smaller events have been planned to “keep the flame burning” in 2013, and to celebrate the year of The Gathering, of which the festival was due to be one of Westmeath’s flagship events.
These Uisneach gatherings will take place throughout the summer in a bespoke festival area close to the recently re-opened Uisneach Inn venue in the foothill of Uisneach.
The first will take place over the Bealtaine May bank holiday weekend, from Saturday to Monday May 4-6, and will feature many of the elements that made Festival of the Fires Ireland’s most iconic event. These include amazing music from some of the top international and Irish acts, arts and crafts, family entertainment, fire ceremonies, fire performers, re-enactments, history and heritage, spoken word, theatre, poetry, family fun, cinema, local food and drink, genealogy and clan finding and, of course, the legendary Uisneach Warriors.
The Bealtaine Uisneach Gathering will be followed by gatherings on the June bank holiday weekend, the August bank holiday weekend, and at key weekends over the summer.
The events are being hosted by the people behind Festival of the Fires, supported by Westmeath County Council and the Irish Public Bodies Insurance, but will not be called ‘Festival of the Fires’ for this year.
The organisers wish to thank all who have supported the festival over the years, particularly in recent weeks.
“We want to thank everybody for their support over the years, particularly in recent weeks as we made the incredibly tough decision not to stage our award-winning event, but the Hill of Uisneach needs to rest and we have to respect her wishes.
“However, the gatherings at Uisneach will feature many of the best aspects of Festival of the Fires, and in the year of The Gathering they will keep the Bealtaine flame burning all summer long, beckoning thousands to the centre of Ireland to enjoy the very best of Irish culture and hospitality.”
Full details of all events will be released in the coming weeks.