Since 2007 the town of Westport, located in County Mayo along the northwestern coast of the Republic of Ireland, has had its own bluegrass festival, called appropriately enough, the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. It’s not a large town, already a tourist attraction for its lovely seaside along a natural cove, with the festival now bringing in visitors from all over Europe to enjoy the music and hospitality.
Though many others are now involved, the Westport festival was started by one man, Uri Kohen, who tells the story in a new short film by Rickie O’Neill and his BackHouse Films production company. It manages to capture both the history and the charm of this unique event in just under 15 minutes, and is sure to spread the word about the Westport festival even further throughout the world.
Kohen’s vision was to present the bluegrass he so loved in a way that would be familiar to an Irish audience, and with its own Irish character. By hosting performances in Westport’s pubs and historic venues, and using bands and dancers for the region in addition to acts brought in from the US and other parts of Britain and Europe, he was able to see his dream fulfilled. Though they were prevented from having live music in person during the pandemic shutdowns, they did host virtual concerts online. Now he says that 40% of their audience consists of visitors from outside of Ireland, as well as townspeople who look forward to it every year.
Kohen, an Israeli native who emigrated to Ireland in his teens, tells us that he had the idea for a documentary, and reached out to Rickie after watching another of his films.
“I saw one of Rickie’s other documentaries, and figured out that he is from the same county as my own. I got in touch with him about the idea, but it was all his doing. He raised the money through local grants and made it happen.
I had no hand in the directing or editing what so ever, it is the way he views it and the story he wanted to tell, but I am super happy with it.”
Using a mix of live music and interviews, mostly with Uri but also featuring artists who performed at the June 2022 festival, O’Neill paints a picture of an extremely appealing community and a very entertaining event.
Rickie says it happened just as Uri explained.
You don’t need to be Irish to appreciate this fine brief film, or to recognize the particular spirit of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival.
Have a look…
Congratulations and hats off to Uri Kohen for the success of the festival, and to Rickie O’Neill for bringing it to all of us to enjoy!