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Brighten up your winter
The best festivals in Ireland
The joys of performing outdoors
Summer showtime
Giving something back

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Miscellaneous

The best festivals in Ireland

I love festivals. Not the music festivals that everyone else goes for, but the real festivals, the big family events that take over a full town. The Puck Fair in Killorglin is one of my favourites - three days of complete madness, with a few magic and puppet shows thrown in. I will be back there this August. 
But this week I got to a new festival, the Salmon Festival in Ballina, County Mayo. I was there on Sunday, in pouring rain, and a big crowd turned out despite the conditions. I swapped shows with Babcock and Bobbins, a Northern circus act who were very funny.

The joys of performing outdoors

Cork is a great place - unless you want to sunbathe in the garden. It is rarely warm enough. Sometimes we think the weather is great, but it is only great compared to what we are used to. It is never truly great.
This is brought home to me every time I am asked to perform outdoors. The sun is shining, the kids are running around having fun, then we call them to order. They all sit on a rug on the warm grass - and within ten minutes they are shivering, and mums are running out with cardigans and jackets!

Summer showtime

Growing up in County Clare, I remember every year entertainment would come to Lahinch, where we spent out summers. Every year a play would be put on, starring some of the cast of The Riordans, a big soap from that era. And Eamon O'Connor would bring his variety show a few times during the summer. He worked with my dad before becoming a magician and comedian, and I was so delighted once when we bumped into him on the beach, and my father introduced me to him. In later years I got to know him well, and he was a lovely guy, and wickedly funny.

Giving something back

We had a great day at the Maritime College in Ringaskiddy today. A group of children with leukemia and their families were having a day out. We had bouncy castles, face painters, balloon animals, ice creams and other goodies. It was great to see some many happy faces.
That is one of the joys of being a childrens' entertainer. We get to so many events and parties, and we are part of the fun. It is great to bring a smile to a child's face through the magic and the puppets. Sometimes that joy is tinged with a hint of sadness, especially when the children are sick. But life is to be lived, no matter what difficulties we are facing. Which is why it was so satisfying to see all the kids - those with leukemia and those without - having so much craic this afternoon.

Bringing a new friend into the act

When I was about eleven I was having tea in a friend's house across town. His mother called us in to eat, and told us that a new children's program was starting that night. We were eleven and well beyond children's programs, but to keep her happy we left it on. It was the first episode of The Muppet Show. My friend loved it, and I was completely blown away. It transformed the art of puppetry, and I am still a huge fan. The last Muppet Movie was a great evening for me and my kids.
The same night as we saw The Muppet Show for the first time, I had Macaroni Cheese for the first time.

Storytelling

I grew up in Ennis, where we had a great library. I loved visiting, and there was always a great sense of excitement whenever I would walk through the thick heavy doors into the wonderland of books. In the children's section - which was huge - there was an area called The Well. It was a deep circular hole surrounded by three layers of tiered seating.
Every so often a storyteller would visit the library, and we would sit in the tiers enthralled as he wove his tales for us. Eddie Lenihan was one of the ones I remember.

Easter - celebrating chocolate eggs

Easter Egg Fun - don't you just love it. Growing up I heard tales of my father's Easters out the country. He claimed that everyone hand-boiled eggs, and on Easter Sunday morning the kids would try to scoff as many of these as they could. I can just imagine the look on my two if I tried to replace chocolate with real egg!
But it is a great fun time. Children are off school and the weather is improving. It is time to get outdoors and enjoy the spring. In recent years I have tended to fall into a pattern, which I hope to repeat this time.

Christmas - don't start too early

Christmas is coming - too early. Remember the good old days when Christmas began in mid-December? We had neighbours who always put up their tree the Sunday before December 8, just to get a march on us all. They kept their trees in the attic all year, ready for the annual light-up. It only took them half an hour to go from suburban semi-detached to Blackpool illuminations. It always took us a lot longer.
Traditionally we waited until the first day of the Christmas holidays, and then began a mad scramble to get the tree up and the lights all fixed as quickly as we could.