Anocht, Dé hAoine, 21 Meán Fómhair ar RTÉ 1 ag 20.30 a fhéachfaidh an clár Féile- An Turas go Tipp siar ar choirmcheol atá fós i gcuimhne na ndaoine a d'fhreastail uirthi...

Between 1990-1994 the town of Thurles was laid siege to by a generation that were starving for an escape from the norm. The Trip to Tipp has gone down in Irish music folklore for all the best reasons. The promoters MCD claimed at the time it was Ireland’s answer to Woodstock!  No mobile phones, no internet, no social media, but it created a world of wonderful memories and music for the people who played it, worked it, and indulged.  Féile – an Turas go Tipp captures some of the magic of the original on the eve of the remake.

1990 was some year.  It was the year that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the year the Berlin Wall was demolished, the year the Simpsons first aired.  Glenroe, Mailbag and Live @ 3 were still on the TV  and a new show started called Winning Streak. Bishop Eamon Casey  and  Mary Robinson were in the news and Italia '90 had the nation in a fever of possibilities.  And then there was "Féile".

The background to Féile is a very typical Irish story in itself.  Semple Stadium was in debt, serious debt after the centenary final in 1984.  A local young Fine Gael councilor, rooted in the GAA, organised a homecoming gig for the victorious Tipperary hurling team in 1989.  Joe Dolan and the Wolfe Tones played and  then Cllr.Michael Lowry charged supporters a fiver (IR£5) to welcome home their own heroes. In the afterglow he courted the GAA with an ambitious plan for a three day festival that he believed could clear that crippling debt.

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"…..My office was fairly near the railway station …. and I looked out the window and I saw… I mean it was incredible to see what was arriving, I mean they had hobnail boots, they were disheveled looking, ….. so I just said- this is serious and I can recall I had to go and sit on the loo for an hour."

Michael Lowry TD - Féile organiser

Lowry had approached MCD and the plan was hatched. He’d do the logistics and they’d provide the music.  Thurles was a small town with no infrastructure for such an event.  But every field and GAA pitch in the locality was made available to the amateur campers who would literally end up pitching their tents wherever they could.  The GAA had to be convinced that the hallowed turf of Semple Stadium should be opened up to such an event for the greater good. The archbishop had to be appeased, and the parents of Ireland had to be reassured that their offspring would be returned to them safely.  The first weekend ticket in 1990 was IR£29. Over 25,000 people descended on the town each day, many never made it to the stadium.  This annual pilgrimage to Thurles lasted for 5 years and the debt was cleared.

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Front lawns were given over to the hordes, hot breakfasts and showers from every second doorway  and everything from condoms to alka seltzer was available for a couple of quid, as the town opened up to the invaders.  The wonderful photos of Wally Cassidy and Eamon Brennan that feature in this programme are the most telling and evocative documents of those first 5 years of madness in Thurles. 

"I remember on one of the Féiles I was booked into the Dundrum House Hotel ….I remember checking in with Iggy Pop and Kirsty McColl …… I’ve a very fond memory of the staff at the hotel paging Iggy Pop as... Mr Pop."  Tony Clayton Lea, Journalist

15 of the 19 acts in the first year were Irish.  It was a golden era for Irish music and Féile showed  they could share the stage with anyone.  Van Morrison, Christy Moore, The Hothouse Flowers, The Sawdoctors, The Stunning, An Emotional Fish, That Petrol Emotion, The Sultans of Ping, The 4 of Us - these bands were the stars of the show over the next few years alongside the biggest acts in the world at the time – Bryan Adams, Simply Red, Primal Scream, The Prodigy.  For those who were there, the memory of Féile was not just about the music.  Those early years provided a community spirit as everyone gathered in front of one stage for a shared experience.

"…… the 4 of Us -  they were huge at the time …., they were about as exotic as you could get in Ireland, I mean they were these handsome Newry brothers…...I do have the distinction that I got off with 3 of the 4 of Us so I’m going back now coz I’ve unfinished business as far as I’m concerned...that all happened at Féile."  Fiona Looney, Journalist 

On the eve of the nostalgia trip that is Féile Classical, Féile – an Turas go Tipp, is a programme you won’t want to miss. If you can remember it, you weren’t there!

Craolfar Féile- An Turas go Tipp anocht, Dé hAoine, 21 Meán Fómhair ag 20.30 ar RTÉ 1.