A festival for left handed people and an attempt to break a world record for bearded men are two of the 1,700 offbeat festivals announced for The Gathering, Ireland’s invitation for people to come reconnect with Ireland.

Facing criticism that The Gathering was recycling old festivals, Leo Varadkar, Transport and Tourism Minister, said that many new events were being specially created for The Gathering and that older festivals were being scaled up. He said that The Gathering is a one time event.

Varadkar said: “We don’t want to just create new events. We want all existing events and festivals to answer the call of The Gathering and I’m delighted they’ve done that.”

The new events are getting a lot of attention. Battle D’Arcy, general manager of the Belvedere House Gardens in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, came up with the idea for inviting lefties because the town’s name in Irish means “town of the left handed mill.” The attraction will include hotel rooms specially designed for the 10 percent of the world’s population that is left handed.

John Martin Griffin, secretary of the Ballymore Development Company in Co Galway is organizing the “Town of 1,000 Beards”  which will be a two day event. At least 1,000 bearded men will line up in the village street to break the current record in the Guinness Book of World Records. This festival will also feature competitions for different beards from around the world and the event hopes to attract about 400 overseas visitors. When the Irish Examiner asked what kind of woman would want to attend such an event, Griffin responded, “A giggly one.”

Another offbeat event is “Meet to Compete” in which 25 sports from around the world will be staged at five different location in south Dublin throughout the year. Featured sports include baseball, basketball, cricket and soccer. The event estimates about 18,000 tourists will attend.

For those who are right handed and hairless, there are 1,500 other events which include some more traditional entertainment. Producer John McColgan has announced a successor to ‘Riverdance’ titled ‘Heartbeat of Home’ which will open at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in September. The show is co-written by Irish writer and playwright Joseph O’Connor. It is composed by award winning composer Brian Byrne and choreographed by David Bolger. The show will open in Ireland and then tour in the United States. There will be a ‘Riverdance’ festival during the summer and a world record performance of ‘Riverdance’ along the River Liffey in Dublin.

The Gathering will officially start on December 31 with a New Year’s concert in Dublin featuring Imelda May and Bell X1. The Gathering hopes to attract an additional 325,000 visitors and nearly $2 million in revenue.

Watch the video for The Gathering here


Irish Tourism Minister Leo VaradkarNiall Carson c/o PA