So you’ve already heard about The Gathering.
The “year-long, country-wide party”, the “celebration of all things Irish and of celebration itself” and “the best reason there’s ever been to come to Ireland”.
You know it’ll be huge and fabulous and that you are cordially invited.
But… what does this actually mean?
Well we’re here to explain, with a few examples to paint you a picture. See, The Gathering isn’t eight people in a room handwriting letters to third-generation Irish Americans, distant Australian cousins and Riverdance fans.
It’s whole population affair – sure how else could we put on the thousands of events?!
So out of the mile-long calendar of clan gatherings, festivals, reunions and sporting events, we’ve put the spotlight on four to give you a taste of what is to come in a few short weeks.
First up: the redheads are coming to town.
Red letter day
One of the most original gatherings planned is bringing together people with red hair. Isn’t it about time?!
The annual Redhead Convention began, like many things, as a family joke. Joleen Cronin was sitting in her family’s pub in Crosshaven, County Cork, discussing her brother’s upcoming birthday. “We were just thinking up different ideas we could do for his birthday,” she recalls. “We said for the craic that we’d only invite people with red hair.”
Joleen and her brother Dennis – who she admits “meet all the stereotypes of people with red hair” – began inventing party games, such as carrot tossing and a longest beard competition.
There was really no choice but to make it a reality, so Dennis’s birthday in 2010 became the first-ever Redhead Convention. People travelled from across the country to Crosshaven for the event and to support the Irish Cancer Society – which receives the proceeds from the event.
Imagine the ginger-tinged pride racing through the town! “You see kids there, and suddenly they’re the coolest kids in town because they’ve got red hair,” says Joleen. “Everyone is your friend.”
The convention has spawned a freckle counting contest, orange lawn bowling, carrot tossing and, last year’s new addition, the Ginger Chef’s Cook Off.
Joleen and Dennis promise next year to be bigger and better. “I want some redhead celebrities, like comedian Tim Minchin and musician Ed Sheeran”, Joleen says. “Or to have Paul O’Connell come down and sign rugby balls – or oranges – for kids.”
Just wait’ll Conan O’Brien hears about it.
Looming with love
When she heard about The Gathering, Mayo native Bernadette Ruddy got a-thinking. She thought about her hometown of Foxford, its Foxford Woollen Mills and its inspirational founder Agnes Morragh-Bernard. Immediately, the seed for Love in Loom was planted. This a year-long Gathering will invite visitors from around the world to weave a blanket at the Foxford Woollen Mills, piece by piece.
Each thread represents a person, their ancestors, family, friends who are all coming together in one cloth, which holds no boundaries in communication. It doesn’t speak any language. It’s not political or religious. It’s one piece that’s going to interlock everybody.
We’re creating a blanket of love within the Gathering. It’s about welcoming people home and putting the blanket around them, and bringing them into the warmth and comfort of Ireland.
We consider it crowd-sourced tog value.
Back to baseball
Mike Kindle came to Ireland in 1989 from California. Or “I came for the drink and stayed for the women,” as he puts it. Though he left his native land behind, his precious baseball never left his heart.
He took up softball to try fill the gap, discovering the Irish teams by chasing a car down the road that had a Irish Softball Association bumper sticker. After a few years spent playing softball, he started a small baseball league in the mid-90s with players from all over: Slovaks, Swedes, Cubans, Venezuelans, and Americans as well as Irish. “There’s no sole Irish team. Everyone has somebody from some place else.”
Over the years, it has grown to 10 teams, and now for The Gathering, he’s planning a home run.
We have an international tournament in Dublin every year but next year it will be bigger for The Gathering. We will have an adult and junior international baseball tournament in July 2013 out in Corkagh Park, in west Dublin. We’ll have teams from here, Europe, the UK and America. We’re in discussions with NYPD to see if they will send their team. That’d be unreal.
The Peter O’Malley International Invitational is named in honour of a great benefactor who donated $140,000 to build the facility in Corkagh Park. Peter is of course invited, Mike says, but could be busy “meeting the president or something like that”.
We say: montage moments guaranteed.
Sea the love
Sea Sessions is the very definition of a ‘cult favourite’. What began as a local surf competition with an attempt to “have a band to liven it up”, has mushroomed into a classic surf and music festival that attracts 5,000 revelers annually. The moral of the story? Organiser Daniel Brown says, “You can do what you want where you want, if you believe badly enough.”
It’s just the type of inspiration we’re gathering these days.
Excited? You should be. To see every event we have up our sleeves, check out The Gathering Event calendar.
Kick off to the whole shebang is New Year’s Eve 2012, when Dublin will host an NYE festival for the occasion.