The Gathering

The year of The Gathering kicked off on January 1st, 2013, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since, as people in Ireland sent out the invitation to friends, family, and even strangers overseas to come visit. Some were invited to attend intimate family reunions, while others were called to large, international festivals promising to be bigger and better than ever before.

Beyond those big annual events, what’s really made The Gathering significant is the thousands of community-led celebrations, ranging from muddy fun runs and Gaelic sport competitions to world record attempts, college reunions and a whole host of quirky events. All together, this year’s collection of gatherings not only shows off Ireland’s sense of community but also the great creativity that thrives in the small country.

Take for example one of the most memorable events of the year, the Town of 1,000 Beards gathering, which was organised in Ballymoe, County Galway specially for The Gathering Ireland. Though the organisers didn’t get the 1,000 beardy men they’d originally hoped, they had tonnes of fun on the day and put their small town – in size but not spirit – on the map, with people coming from the UK, US, Poland, France, Australia, Germany, Lithuania, Tasmania and Canada to take part.

“Looking back on the weekend, it has been just such a positive thing for the community. People who would have never heard of or visited Ballymoe came to our small village,” said organiser Mary Finnegan on the final day of the gathering.

The iconic Rose of Tralee – a friendly international competition that celebrates Irish women and those of Irish descent – also did its part for The Gathering. This year, the organisers invited all Roses and their Escorts back to Tralee, County Kerry, where the festival takes place every August. For Kelly McGrath O’Doherty, who represented New York at the festival in 1993, it was an opportunity to reminisce and catch up with the other women from her year.

Just days before the special Rose Gathering, McGrath O’Doherty expressed her excitement for the event: “It’s something that has stayed with me and honestly has been a part of my life pretty much every day in some way. The memories of it, they’re always there. I’m just happy to go back and try to capture a little bit of it 20 years on,” she added.

Even though these exciting gatherings and many more have already passed, the last few months of 2013 will bring a whole host of special events, all leading up to the conclusion of The Gathering on New Year’s Eve. So, whether you’re looking to fill a few days before and after TBEX, or want an excuse to return to Ireland later in the year, there’s a gathering or two that has you covered.

In between hearing speakers and socialising with your fellow attendees at TBEX Europe, get out into Dublin and explore. Open House Dublin kicks off on the final day of the conference and is a fantastic way to see the city like never before, as buildings usually closed to the public open their doors for three days, until October 6th. More than 100 buildings are taking part, allowing you to get a behind-the-scenes look at spaces ranging from the modern Google Docks, one of the company’s Dublin buildings, to the historic General Post Office on O’Connell Street.

And speaking of history, TBEX also overlaps with the Dublin Festival of History which will give you great insight into the events that have shaped the Irish capital into the city that it is today. The programme includes a Writing Historical Fiction workshop along with a range of talks and walking tours.

If you’re more into art than history, have no fear; there’s something for you too. Dublin Theatre Festival runs from September 26th to October 13th, meaning you can catch a show or two in the evening after a day of TBEX activities.

Or, get out of Dublin for your culture fix. The Irish Association of Barbershop Singers is hosting its very own gathering in Waterford, where you’ll be able to watch choruses and quartets from around the world doing their best doo-wop.

Another option is to head south-west to beautiful County Kerry, which is hosting the Kenmare Lace Festival from October 3-6. This festival, created for The Gathering, is a unique celebration of one of Ireland’s greatest crafts. But you’ll find more than lace; the programme includes live music, film viewings, exhibits and workshops on lacemaking. After all, what’s a better souvenir of your travels than picking up a traditional skill from Ireland?

If you’re planning to extend your stay into mid-October, Cork is absolutely the place to be. Kinsale, a seaside town known for its beautiful landscape and great food, is hosting Come Home for Your Tea from October 12-13th. Organised by Kinsale Arts Festival, this weekend event will offer you a true taste of Irish hospitality, with a friendly welcome, lots of chat and of course, tea. Oh and did we mention it’s also the 37th Gourmet Festival, meaning Kinsale’s renowned culinary scene will be on full display.

Your Cork experience continues as Cork Rebel Week kicks off on October 14th. This cheeky celebration of all things Cork will show you just why the region is know as the Rebel County. Everyone from local sporting stars to TV funny man Graham Norton is getting in on the festivities, and you too can channel your inner Corkonian by getting a Rebel Passport (which comes with lots of local discounts and offers).

If you can’t stay around after TBEX but are already plotting your return to Ireland, then why not come back for New Year’s Eve – the very last official gathering of 2013. Last year’s celebration was a huge hit with the Countdown Concert at Trinity College featuring Imelda May, Bell X1 and Ham Sandwich. This year’s festival is still a bit hush-hush, so we can’t reveal any secrets just yet, but we can promise it’ll be even bigger and better than last year. In addition to the concert, you can experience Ireland’s love for all things equine with a visit to the Leopardstown Races and catch the People’s Procession of Light, which includes stunning displays and performances taking place on the streets of Dublin. It’s sure to be a night to remember and a great start to your 2014.

For more information on these and other gatherings taking place visit www.thegatheringireland.com