Flying the Flag in France

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Our Arts Engagement Officer, Grainney Sheard recently returned from her time at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient where she headed up the Manx contingent and won the Best Delegate Award. Mike Wade from Isle of Man newspapers spoke to Grainney on her return about the trip for the Isle of Man Independent. The Manx artists this year included Skeddan Jiarg Manx dancers, the Mollag Band, The Mera Royle Trio and Julia Ashby Smyth.

Grainney Sheard shortly after being awarded the Best Delegate Award by the Festival Organisers.

Words by Mike Wade

A team of musicians, dancers, artists, chefs and more went down a storm at the Isle of Man at the recent Interceltique Lorient Festival.

Once again the Isle of Man more than pulled their weight at the recent Interceltic Lorient Festival. Despite being one of the smallest nations taking part in the mammoth 10-day long festival, the visiting acts from the Isle of Man proved to be highly popular with the many thousands of festival goers who flock to the event. Opening on Saturday, 3 August, the Manx Acts, including the adult and child dancers of Skeddan Jiarg, the Mollag Band and the Mera Royle Trio, performed daily at show piece events such as the opening of the Grand Parade, the Manx concert on the large Espace Marine Stage and also in front of the crowds who flocked to the popular Manx Pavilion.

Skeddan Jiarg dancers backstage at the Espace Marine where they received a standing ovation for both their shows.

The Manx Pavilion, shared with the delegation from Cornwall, featured a busy kitchen and bar, selling Manx queenies and bacon, and serving the locally-produced Fynoderee gin, along with Bushy’s Beer, and a shop selling Manx produce.

The stage area was a hive of activity as hundreds of people congregated and enjoyed the performances from the children from Skeddan Jiarg.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle and Marlene Maska MLC watched the Manx flag parade through the town for the Grande Parade des Nations Celtes.

The Mollag Band performing at the Espace Paroles.

Leading the Isle of Man delegation this year was Grainney Sheard. More than used to dancing at the event, Grainney only took up the reins of the Manx involvement in Lorient in January and impressed the festival organisers so much she was awarded the award for Best Delegate at the festival.

Grainney said that she was thrilled to win the award, and said that the week and a half spent taking part in this year’s festival was the rewarding time of her life.

‘Being at the Lorient festival is like being in a surreal bubble that you live in for ten days; she said. ‘There’s nothing like it. You think the TT is big, but in terms of numbers, this festival blows the TT away. You get 750,000 people visiting the festival and for the Grand Parade alone, more people watch that than live in the Isle of Man. It’s a huge event, shown live on television, showcasing every country and region taking part. I watched it this year from the grand box, alongside the Chief Minister. He enjoyed it very much. He lit up when the Manx came along.’

Left to right: Arts Coordinator, Sarah Hendy, Chief Minister Howard Quayle, Manx Artist Julia Ashby Smyth, Manx Delegate Grainney Sheard. 

Both the adult and child dancers of Skeddan Jiarg, led by Gráinne Joughin, were cheered every step as they danced to the tune of the folk song ‘Flitter Dance’ along the Grand Parade, and they won admiration and praise at their other shows. Ahead, the Three Legs was carried alongside the flags of other nations by the owner of Fynoderee gin, Paul Kerruish.

‘Skeddan Jiarg’s show at the Espace Marine was just wonderful,’ said Grainney. 'They had a standing ovation at the end of their performance at the Espace Marine, and people didn’t want them to leave. Everybody loved them. The kids were brought on afterwards and interviewed, which was really sweet, and they just seemed to take it all in their stride. They were absolutely worth their weight in gold out there. They just charmed everyone who saw them, and did the Isle of Man proud.’

Mera Royle also played a series of concerts and shows backed by Owen Williams and Raygie Dolloso, and the Mollag Band were once again a popular presence, bringing large crowds to their shows at the Manx Pavilion.

The Mera Royle Trio pictured at one of their press conferences. Left to right: Owen Williams, Mera Royle, Raygie Dolloso.

Elsewhere at the festival, the Manx representative artist Julia Ashby Smyth welcomed crowds of people to the Euro-Celtic Art Exhibition, held alongside artists from other Celtic nations.

‘Even though our team was small, we always deliver, and though we are one of the smaller contingents alongside Cornwall, the festival really values the Isle of Man,’ Grainney said. 'Everyone has heard of us and there is no trying to explain where we are or where we are from. They all know.

‘The pavilion is always packed whenever we have any of our acts on. The crowds just descend upon us, which is just wonderful. There are people who tell us that they have booked holidays to the Isle of Man on the back of seeing the Manx at Lorient, which is amazing. And we also have loads of people who ask us where they should visit and where they should stay and what they should do. It is a massive opportunity for tourism that shouldn’t be sniffed at.’

Some of the younger members of Skeddan Jiarg dancing at the Manx Pavilion this year.

Now Grainney and the rest of the team are back on the island, she said that they will have a couple of weeks off before starting work on plans for next year’s festival, which will be the 50th anniversary of Lorient, leaving her enough time to reflect on a successful debut as the head of the Manx contingent.

‘I was supported by many people, especially Sarah Hendy who was my assistant delegate. Chloe Woolley and Breesha Maddrell, from Culture Vannin, were a big help, as was my sister Ealee, who was delegate before me for the past five years. But nothing could quite prepare you for being on the ground during the festival, running around, putting out fires everywhere. We barely had any sleep, and we didn’t eat at all hardly, and it was exhausting. But it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life, and to get the award was phenomenal.’

See more about the Manx participation at this year's festival including and interview between Grainney and Sarah and much more via Manx Radio's Lorient podcast channel.

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