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The National Celtic Festival was a celebration of cultural diversity and all things music

There's something therapeutic about the cinematic shiver of a fiddle in full flight as the long weekend strolls in. Despite the bitter chill of the cold night, it was easy to take shelter in the Celtic Club stage on the opening night of the National Celtic Festival. With glorious paper lanterns adorning the roof of the venue, a beautiful atmosphere was created and enhanced by the music on show.

The opening night of this year’s event was three years to the day that comedy icon Rik Mayall had passed, and it was only fitting that The Gathering Tide dedicated Bonfire Night to him. Combining the award-winning fiddle talents of Peter O’Shea, the songwriting of tracks such as The Party’s Over – a political ballad about the resources of planet earth being quickly exhausted – led as a precursor for what was to come across the next three days.
 
The thing I love most about festivals is the discovery of new acts. Based in Melbourne, Saoirse is one such example who throughout their highly energetic 45-minute set showcased the multi instrumental talents of it’s five members, effortlessly swapping between piano accordion, guitar and mandolin as well as sharing lead vocal duties. The highlight of their set was Paddy Donavon which is based on the 2006 film The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
 
This year’s lineup showcased a wide array of talent from both here and overseas. Sets from veterans such as The Bushwackers and Eric Bogle proved easy crowd favourites and was led by pertinent political statements about coal mining and man's inhumane treatment of his fellow man.
 
The highlight of the music programming was brought by Welsh indie band Callan who mixed things up with a clog dance competition between one of the members of the band and their dad, who doubles as their tour manager. This light hearted rivalry was cheered on by the audience who had never experience a live ‘Welsh clog off’ before.
 
The Celtic festival isn’t just about the music, and the camaraderie between strangers – like Vikings, Celtic witches and Lantunda with adorning torchlight procession – were also highlights in a weekend that celebrated cultural diversity and all things music.
 
Highlight: Experiencing a Welsh clog off.
Lowlight: Variety of food available.
Crowd Favourite: Eric Bogle’s song When I’m Dead.