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The Outing in Ireland: The best little LGBTI festival you’ve never heard of

The Outing in Ireland: The best little LGBTI festival you’ve never heard of

Global LGBTIs making a mild impression on a quaint Irish town recently

These days, to be hip you need to be quick. Be there, do that, and take a quick selfie, before the masses move in.

So if you know, you’ll know about The Outing. You don’t? Well let me tell you all bout it. Us Irish do love a story.

Every year Ireland’s capital, Dublin, plays host to the crazy funfest that is Pride.

The city’s a tourist magnet all year round, but during Pride the city goes ballistic, and all who want to party in the pink can do just that. Hen parties included. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Then there’s the hipster side of life with the alternative, boutique festivals you’ve never heard of. And that includes the world’s first LGBTI music and matchmaking festival – The Outing.

No one does a matchmaking festival quite like the West of Ireland town, Lisdoonvarna. Eleven months a year it’s a quite unremarkable country town but come autumn it becomes matchmaking central.

Matchmaking is pretty much like analogue Grindr. You get the chance to meet with real people, in real time in a real space. Imagine that!

These are real single people who are, firstly looking to meet someone and, secondly have a bit of craic. That’s ‘craic’, as in the Irish term for good time and not Class A goods.

Lisdoonvarna  became Ireland’s national home of matchmaking some 150-odd years ago. Lonely (mostly elderly) farmers, desperate for a male heir for their lands would come to the Lughnasa (harvest) dances to find a good woman.

Young women would flock to the dances looking for someone with film star looks. They might have been longing to meet a Gregory Peck or Frank Sinatra. What they usually got was a Vincent Price. Maybe not a looker, but a provider none the less.

And then, in 2012, The Outing had its own coming out party. An army of love hungry LGBTI merrymakers, led by Irish gay icon and drag legend Panti Bliss, teetering into town in her stillies, raised many an eyebrow. But now, every October rainbow flags flutter from every lamp post in town crying out a big ole ‘Failte’ (that’s ‘welcome’ in Irish).

the_outing_festival

If you build it they will come. And come they do, not only flocking from Ireland, but across the UK, Germany, Netherlands, France, Germany and even Canada.

The festival has grown from a few hundred in year one to now over 2,500 coming though the doors over earlier this month.

During the day there’s much to keep you busy with organized activities where you just might meet ‘the one’. There’s Father Ted location tours, treasure hunts, and even a Love Boat cruise.

Or explore Count Clare’s Wild Atlantic Way and visit the ancient Burren landscape, Ireland’s natural wonder the Cliffs of Moher, and the nearby ‘bean to bar’ Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory. But if you fancy something a bit more extreme, go surfing with the LGBTI outdoor pursuits group Wet ‘n’ Wild.

When the sun goes down though, the real fun begins. Heading the bill this year was Jonny Woo and John Sizzle from East London’s home of alternative cabaret, The Glory, together with their partner in crime, Le Gateau Chocolat. Again if you know, you’ll know. And if you don’t you’ll want to know.

Anyone for speed-dating? What about the Gaydar Love Games? Or even a live version of ‘Blind Date’ hosted by an Irish TV presenter? Yeah? You’re in the right place.

And if you fancied a bop like it’s the 1990s all over again, those lovely colleens B*Witched made a live appearance, rocking out the hits.

Come Sunday and I grab a word with The Outing’s main man Eddie McGuinness.

Eddie describes himself as a ‘social entrepreneur’ – basically, he’s a man who makes things happen. And (perhaps surprisingly) he’s not in this for the money, he just likes to see people have a good time.

‘I’m knackered but can you believe it? B*Witched made it and the crowd just went wild. That’s what it’s all about for me. When it all comes together, you can’t beat that,’ he tells me, both relieved but with the satisfied air of man with a job done well.

Forget B*Witched, that’s real magic folks. And as for me, I’ll be falling under its spell again next year. I’m still single but maybe I’ll see you there. As they say, the craic will be mighty. But let’s just keep this boutique festival our little secret, eh?

The Outing will take place in October 2017. More information at TheOuting.ie.

I stayed at the King Thomond Hotel. The nearest airport to Lisdoonvarna is Shannon with flights from most major UK cities carried by Aer Lingus and Ryanair. There are additional flights to Shannon from across Europe and the US.

With thanks to Failte Ireland.