The Irish Folk Festival 2005 had a serious agenda- to protest against the Irish government's planned demolition of Ireland's most prominent and ancient heritage site, Tara, in order to build a tolled motorway that will supposedly solve Ireland's increasingly catastrophic traffic problem. The mythical grounds of Ireland's Neolithic inhabitants, and later the residence of the High Kings of Tara and their druids, Tara occupies a special place in Irish mythical and folkloric culture, even up till today. Acknowledged as the place where St. Patrick converted the peoples to Christianity, and crystallised in history as the stronghold of Irish independence against the English, Tara thus embodies the religious and historical culture of the country. Fast forward to the modern day, and one need only look at the proliferation of Tara's image in music, film and literature, to recognise the impact of the ancient site on Irish popular culture today.
In an effort to stop the proposed destruction of Tara, the "Tunes for Tara" Irish Folk Festival 2005 presented an evening of multimedia slide and video images that were screened behind the artists as they paid their tribute to the majestic site. The bands- Beoga, Kevin Burke & Ged Foley, Phamie Gow (who was absent on the night) and Solas structured their sets to focus on the importance of Tara and its centrality in the Irish musical tradition, which ended in a brilliant finale where all the artists came back on stage to the rousing cheer of the audience.
I wasn't prepared for the very serious cultural and political impetus of the performance that evening. I'd come to the concert hall with great expectations to see several of my favourite musicians play live, and I'd tanked up on enough Guinness to get me in the mood beforehand. But experiencing the passion and commitment of these artists, and the organisers of the Irish Folk Festival, to saving a historical relic that is central to the Irish consciousness, that is essential to the Irish cultural and political identity, was a very humbling experience indeed. It made me reflect on my own ideas about cultural and social identity, and how, in these postmodern times of late cultural capitalism, the destruction of "every voice, every point of origin" can sometimes lead to seriously disastrous consequences. For those of you who still would like to voice your petition, here are several websites where you can do so: www.savetara.com, www.taraskryne.org and www.protect-tara.org. In a rather paradoxical turn of events, the future of Tara depends on you. Don't let it slip into history.
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