Go On Go On to Ted Fest 2019

Ted Fest – the annual ode to legendary TV series Father Ted will take place this year from February 21-24 with Inishmore standing in for Craggy Island.

Speaking about the festival to Travel Ireland Magazine, co-founder Peter Phillips says: “The real beauty of Ted Fest is the people who come. It takes a certain type of individual who will find their way to the Aran Islands in February to celebrate a TV show that is 20 years old.”

Father Ted starred Irish comedian Dermot Morgan as the titular character, a priest exiled on the fictional Craggy Island for various past incidents. He is trapped there alongside the younger simpleminded Father Dougal, older foul-mouthed alcoholic Father Jack and insane housekeeper Ms Doyle.

The series ran from April 21, 1995 to May 1, 1998. Praised for its absurdist, surreal humour, the show garnered a legion of devoted cult fans like founders of Ted Fest – Phillips and Fergal McGrath. The two’s idea to set up the event emerged in the unlikeliest of places.

“It’s a bizarre genesis,” recalls Phillips. “Fergal and I met in the middle of a civil war in Sri Lanka. It was the year after the 2004 Indian tsunami. I was the trustee of a small charity that was funding an art therapy group over on the Eastern coast.”

“I went over and a civil war kicked off. Fergal had taken six months off from work and was travelling in the area and had a mutual friend in the art therapy centre. He was from Galway, where I used to live. We got chatting, trying to keep ourselves sane and we started talking about Father Ted. I said: ‘Jesus, if we ever get back to Galway. We’ll have a pint and we’ll put together this idea for a festival. We knew someone who had a pub out on Inishmore. It took off from there.”

Phillips says the aim of Ted Fest was to be the opposite of a typical TV convention: “We didn’t want one of those nice plush hotels with everyone watching reruns of the program and getting autographs signed by bit part actors. It was always about living the Craggy Island dream and that’s the direction it went.”

Craggy Island in Father Ted is depicted as remote island full of eccentrics, populated by dancing priests, lascivious milkmen and shotgun wielding psychos. In its pilot episode ‘Good Luck Father Ted’, the island runs a hilarious makeshift fun fair with activities like ‘freak pointing’, taking a dip in the ‘pond of terror’ and climbing a ladder – an event which feels like a major influence on Ted Fest.  As Phillips notes: “Over the years it’s become less about Father Ted and more about Craggy Island.”

What happens at Ted Fest? “There are three events we always do – the holy trinity we call it. The first is contest Ted’s Got Talent. The best winner was a physics university lecturer who gave a talk about the complex nature of water in a glass in the style of the Cuban priest that appeared in Father Ted. It was totally bizarre,” recalls Phillips.

The second event is the series’ spoof of popular Irish event The Rose of Tralee: “We have the Lovely Girls contest which is probably the most direct connection we have with the programme and we do the Craggy Cup, a priest versus nun 5-a-side football match we play on the beach Saturday morning. That was always refereed by Rob Morgan, Dermot’s son up until a couple of years ago.”

According to Phillips, the festival is held on the last weekend in February to coincide with lead actor Dermot Morgan’s death. The famous Irish comedian passed away on February 28, 1998, just one day after shooting Father Ted’s last episode. “Tragically, Frank Kelly who played Fr. Jack also died the same date as Dermot just three years ago,” the co-founder notes.

The small intimate event – hosting around 250 people – has a packed schedule this year of which Phillips gave Travel Ireland Magazine a teaser: “This year we have human buckaroo, line dancing and our own version of Blind Date hosted by Patrick McDonnell.” The comedian and actor played childlike but sinister jumper wearing TV personality Eoin McLove in Father Ted of who Ms Doyle is enamoured.

Summing up Ted Fest, Phillips recounts: “One of the regular attendees brought his wife over one year. She said ‘Jesus – this is like Lord of the Flies on crack!’ Laughing the co-founder adds: “It’s a wonder to behold and long may it continue.”

Details and tickets for this year’s Ted Fest are available at tedfest.org.

Featured Image Credit – Adam Patterson

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