Music in the Micro Tourism Mix

Great Friends: Mary Jones and Sharon Shannon before the concert at O'Riada's on January 9th. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Great Friends: Mary Jones and Sharon Shannon before the concert at O’Riada’s on January 9th. ©Photograph: John Reidy 9-1-2015

They’d be talking about tourism and what works and what doesn’t. There are people being paid vulgar sums of money to promote and sustain a culture here in Ireland and in an ever changing global market.

Right under our noses and right here at home we have some shining examples of people doing just that for their localities and at no cost to the beleaguered exchequer account.

On a Saturday-night-per-month basis, PJ Teahan, and less than a handful of friends, throw a ripple in the relative tranquility of Scartaglin Village with their Handed Down programme of lectures on the iconic musicians of the greater Sliabh Luachra area.

They also throw a meagre entrance fee on the door on these occasions to cover the cost of whatever the night produces.  What they gather will also be put towards Saturday, May 16th and the finest gathering of fiddlers and a pocket full of accordion players in the village for World Fiddle Day.

The finishing touches are being put to the programme for the great day – and one at each side of it. It will be another truly wonderful occasion in the area.

PJ Teahan's dream of a great gathering in Scartaglin is coming to fruition each month through his Handed Down programme. ©Photograph: john Reidy 7-8-2014
PJ Teahan’s dream of a great gathering in Scartaglin is coming to fruition each month through his Handed Down programme. ©Photograph: john Reidy 7-8-2014

Across country to Ballymacelligott where Mary Jones and John Reidy – or ‘John O Riada’ as Sharon Shannon called him – have opened their doors and minds to the possibility of Ó Riada’s becoming a leading music venue in the area.

That plan went well down the road towards possibility earlier this month when the embarrassingly talented duo, Sharon Shannon and Alan Connor played there. Mary Jones has been receiving text and messages of congratulations and enquiries on the dates of the next ‘gig’ there.

Success breeds success and may I drop the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival into the pot of ingredients of attraction here. It has been attracting a world-wide base of fans in recent years in particular and Americans and Europeans are showing up here with greater regularity – and plans are afoot to create a greater flow from these important sources.

Scartaglin was buzzing even on Sunday afternoon with news of the success of the Handed Down session with Matt Cranitch at the village heritage centre and in the three pubs there afterwards.

And this in the same week as Sharon Shannon posted the following message on her Ballymac experience.

“Alan Connor and I had a fantastic gig in O Riadas Bar Ballymacelligott in Castleisland a few weeks ago. It’s a really lovely venue which is run by two of the nicest people you could ever meet, Mary and John O Riada. I look forward to playing there again in the future and I wish Mary and John the very best of luck with all future gigs at this fab venue. Thanks for all of your hard work at making the gig so successful and thanks for your amazing generosity Mary and John.”

Like the man in the shop in Connemara who posted a notice on his door ‘As Gaeilge’  which urged the visitor:  Use the bit you Have. I did and he helped me and we had a great chat.

There are many other events of great merit running here in the area but I picked the example of the music because, in that, we are truly using the bits we have and drawing people / tourists / visitors into our own areas. These events require great logistical and physical involvement between idea and reality in the host communities and that’s provided without the batting of an eyelid.

‘Micro Tourism’ the people in the suits call it and they’ve published books, pdfs and reports on its viability. To those involved it’s volunteering – a modern-day take on patriotism.

It’s probably time to put the microscope on Micro Tourism and give it its head and place in the great scheme of the Irish tourism trade.