Skibbereen celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landings on Friday night, with Bridge Street transformed into a wacky lunar landscape populated by astronauts and aliens for the West Corktown’s annual arts festival street party.
But the fancy-dress bash was celebrating a double anniversary: not only 50 years since mankind first took a step on the moon, but a decade since Skibbereen hosted its first arts festival: one small step it may seem, but a giant leap in the cultural calendar of West Cork, according to organisers, who doubled their funding from the Arts Council this year.
Local residents and businesses, as ever, went all out with costumes and window-dressing in honour of the street party, embracing this year’s space theme with gusto.
Tinfoil was the must-have fashion accessory, with Star Wars themes also popular. The occasional more tongue-in-cheek costume was also on display: one gentleman was spotted strolling around with a jacket emblazoned with the phrase “Mooning Skibbereen.”
Not to be outdone, festival co-founder and director Declan McCarthy drove a specially modified mobility scooter, decorated to look like a flying saucer, up and down the street, clad in an astronaut’s suit and helmet.
“10 years in, we have such good local support for the festival now,” Mr McCarthy said, removing his helmet.
That’s in no small part to this annual pageant, which really helps to get people behind this arts event.
Food offerings at stalls lining the street included Moon-dogs, Jedi Brownies and Space Balls.
Janet Twomey, a Skibbereen resident, was one of many on hand who remember the momentous occasion of the Moon Landings back in 1969; she was 28 at the time. Janet attended the street party in a hastily ensembled head-dress of stainless-steel mixing bowl adorned with tin foil brim and dangling cut-out stars.
“The moment when they landed on the moon was just so amazing,” she said.
“I remember we couldn’t stop watching the footage over and over again on TV. I suppose it is nice to remember it.”
A specially commissioned ensemble, the Moon Band and Choir, played an hour-long set of moon- themed songs including Moondance, Fly Me to the Moon, and Walking on the Moon on an outdoor stage topped with a giant inflatable moon.
Lisheen primary school teacher Niamh McCarthy, who is also the director of Island Vibes ladies’ choir, conducted the band from a Spaceship podium.
“This collaboration has been really important for all the musicians involved,” Ms McCarthy said.
It’s nice to bring all the musical elements of Skibbereen together; we have rock musicians, a brass band and choristers all performing together, and that’s what the spirit of Skibbereen Arts Festival is all about: community and collaborations.
The Moon Band closed out their performance with The Waterboys’ The Whole of the Moon.
Street entertainments included walkabout zero-gravity spacemen courtesy of Cork puppetry company Dowtcha Puppets and the live creation of a painted moonscape by street art education company Splattervan.
Skibbereen Arts Festival continues until the 4th of August, with a programme of music, theatre, visual arts and dance.