Subtitle: how to plan a group trip to the next Irish ukulele festival
The Irish ukulele hooley boasted the largest gathering of ukulele players in Europe, as 3,000 played and sang together in People’s Park on Sunday 27th August 2017. Not mentioned in the press were the spontaneous group playing at various places, people whipping out their ukuleles and joining different groups to jam to their heart’s content.
As a promise to my fellow ukulele enthusiasts interested in going to the next ukulele festival in Ireland, I am posting a few things about planning the trip and finding accommodation for a small group. We started as strangers, save the burning passion for the ukulele and a desire to go to this festival, and ended as friends. The trip not only raised my level of appreciation for the instrument and group playing but also gave me a buzz from making music in a different way.
Ukulele festivals share the common features of occurring at regular intervals (same time every year) and at the same or similar locations. Ireland’s national ukulele festival takes place each August in the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced “dun leary”). The best advice comes from previous participants. And it was on a ukulele Facebook page that I first heard of this event, that it was an easy journey from Dublin Airport, and that the ukulele bus was not to be missed.
Several things lured me to go to this festival. First and foremost, it was free. Second, it was easy to get to. DART trains ran frequently from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire. Third, the two days were packed with workshops, performances, and group playing on the bus and at the park. Fourth, the event was scheduled on the last weekend of August, which coincided with a public bank holiday in the UK.
It would have been easiest and cheapest to book my flight and accommodation as soon as I had decided to go to this two-day weekend event. While I might have saved a few hundred pounds on a room at a bed-and-breakfast and a convenient flight, the experience would have been entirely different.
When I was ready to book for myself, there was no information on the website about the programme and workshops. This made it difficult to decide whether to arrive on Friday or Saturday, to leave Sunday or Monday, to stay in Dublin or Dun Laoghaire, critical information for booking flight and accommodations.
By posting the event on the Facebook page of the ukulele group I belonged to, I got response from several who wanted to go but couldn’t this time and two who wanted to go, one of whom had a friend elsewhere who was also keen to go. As we didn’t know each other, we had to establish whether we wanted to fly there together, travel from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire together, stay in Dun Laoghaire or Dublin, share a place together, or what.
Logically it made sense to travel as a group. Practically, however, not everyone had the same time preference and budget. Likewise, being able to stay together depended on large-enough accommodation to be available. The cheapest option was to book a bed (in a room with several beds) at the only hostel in Dun Laoghaire. A more practical option was to book an entire home on airbnb, the link of which was not listed on the website. By staying at an airbnb accommodation, we saved on meals and gained a private space to relax and play music.
- Book your flight as soon as possible. Airfares only go up and your choice of flight goes down. The sooner you book, the sooner your journey begins, and the less you spend (both money and time) on the flight. [My Aer Lingus flight from London Heathrow to Dublin on Friday at 07:40 and from Dublin at 11:55 am on Monday cost 178 pounds. The airport coach cost 8 euros from Dun Laoghaire to Dublin Airport, booked online.]
- Book your accommodation next. Unless you have an unlimited budget, choose a home on airbnb to share. Establish who is willing to share a room with two beds. [We split the three night 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom luxury apartment by four, GBP 143.50 per person. The centrally located fifth floor apartment had a big balcony with view of the Dublin Harbour, a modern kitchen with granite worktop, and very comfortable beds and duvets.]
- Decide on where to meet and assemble: Dublin Airport, somewhere in Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, or the accommodation itself. [We traveled in pairs. The first one to arrive waited for me at the airport, and we took a local bus at euro 3.30 a ticket to downtown Dublin. The next two had booked the same flight and on our advice took the fast coach to downtown. We met for lunch and then walked to Trinity College and then the Pearse Street station to board the DART train, which was a very pleasant 3.50 euros to Dun Laoghaire.]
- Schedule free time to visit the famous Forty Foot Swimming Hole and James Joyce Tower, both free and open daily. [Bring your swimming costume and a towel.]