Last weekend I attended Tedfest VIII, a four-day celebration of comedy-series, Father Ted.
Craggy Island, the fictional home of Fathers Ted, Dougal and Jack, was recreated perfectly on a very windy and rugged Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands.
The festivities centred on the Parochial House (otherwise known as Joe Watty’s Pub). A large marquee beside the pub was the hub of the festival. It transformed daily, from the ‘Craggy Island Crack Den’, to ‘Shebangos’, and, on the last day, to ‘Paddy Jordan’s Racetrack’.
The first evening was a relatively quiet beginning to the weekend. We were among the first of the congregation to cross over from the mainland on Thursday evening.
More were expected Friday so the relatively small group got to know each other by playing Human Bingo in Joe Watty’s.
Human Bingo involves the player circulating through the crowd to find someone who matches the descriptions on their bingo sheet — at one stage I passed Pat Mustard looking frantically for anyone who had seen a ghost or was a twin.
Day two dawned.
Following a quick registration at Pier House we were free to explore the island.
We discovered numerous references to Father Ted, from the large, Vegas-style ‘Welcome to Fabulous Craggy Island’ sign to the small green caravan with ‘Craggy Island Tourist Office’ written on the side.
Down by the pier the Ormonde Cinema was showing The Passion of St. Tibulus all week.
On the way to the ‘Craggy Island Crack Den’ for ‘Ted’s Got Talent’ we passed a few obscure characters, including Henry Sellers (“I made the BBC!”), and Father Jack, complete with automatic, Jameson-powered wheelchair.
More minor characters were taking part in the competition. We walked into the marquee to find Mrs Doyle on stage singing ‘I Just Want To Make Tea For You’ to a whooping crowd.
A guaranteed winner, I thought. How could anyone improve on that?
A last minute entry proved me wrong.
As all eight members of the Marty Pellow Sextet filed onstage — how good could a few priests, a sad sheep, Bishop Brennan, and Benson with his old grey whistle and megaphone be? All doubts vanished as soon as they started their acapella version of ‘The Miracle Is Mine’, Father Dick Byrne’s rejected Eurosong entry. They were announced as winners to a cheering audience.
Over in Watty’s, I met with Peter Phillips, the organiser of Tedfest. Peter is a Welshman and, obviously, a massive Ted-head. Tedfest, now in its eighth year, has grown much larger than he ever thought it would.
As he was enjoying his pint, he told me about his plan to bring Tedfest abroad this summer: “We’re bringing the festival to Edinburgh in June and London on July 12. So many people travel from the UK to Inis Mór every year so it makes sense for us to go there.”
The ‘One-Day Pop Tart’ in London will feature classic Tedfest favourites, including ’Ted’s Got Talent’, the Craggy Cup (which will be played in Camden Square), and the ’Lovely Girls Contest’.
Rob Morgan, a long-time supporter of Tedfest, will host a Q&A session in London about his late father, called An Audience Without Dermot.
The Tedfest team will bring a Father Ted-themed show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before stopping over in Cork for a Ted-themed World Social Media Day on June 27.
Tedfest will travel to London and Edinburgh this year & a Ted-themed @SocialMedia_Day will take place in Cork June. Details coming soon :)— Social Media Day (@SocialMedia_Day) March 2, 2014
Rob Morgan is enthusiastic about Tedfest and has been involved with the festival for a number of years.
I chatted to him before the ’Lovely Girls Contest’ on Saturday night. He was dressed in a fantastic blue sequined dinner jacket, modelled on Ted’s Eurosong costume.
He joked about the audience’s ecstatic welcome for him: “I’m just like Calum Best, just living off my dad’s fame!” In fact Rob is actually a trainee accountant living in Dublin.
The ‘Lovely Girls Contest’ was a surreal experience. Twelve would-be farmers wives paraded around Rob on stage, shimmying their ‘lovely bottoms’ and entertaining the audience with their talents.
It was a close contest. The audience was rooting for Catriona from Mayo, who was soon to be married and attending Tedfest for her hen party.
Her party piece was to give birth to a plastic hairy baby on stage to the delight of the audience (and Pat Mustard, who was obviously the hairy baby maker, to those in the know).
The judges, however, didn’t approve. “Down with that sort of thing,” they cried.
Instead the coveted Lovely Girl sash, went to Mel, who travelled to Tedfest from London.
Mel charmed the judges by crafting a cute bear from a balloon and presenting it to the judges. This feat helped her to stand out from the sea of tea-drinking, cake-making, jumper-knitting women around her.
Closing the contest, Rob chose his favourite costume from the crowd as the shouts of “award” and “photo” grew louder.
The winner was Ireland’s Largest Lingerie Section, a girl who had an array of underwear tied to her. She beat off stiff competition from Pat Mustard and his massive tool, two lovely sheep and Craggy Island’s Only Maori.
A bleak Sunday morning heralded the end of Tedfest and a day at the races at Paddy Jordan’s Racetrack.
Naturally, rabbit racing was on the agenda. It was neck and neck between Eamon, Flipper, Sampras, Fr Jack Hackett, and Harvey Keitel, the wind-up rabbits. Sampras shot to the finish amidst shouts of “Come on Eamon!” and “I’ve got £10 riding on that beauty!”
It was an event that was enjoyed by everyone, so it was with a heavy heart that Greg and I walked to the pier to await the ferry home.