Festival time: when Ireland came to Fribourg

At the welcome desk in Equilibre (photo credit: Patrice Bechtiger Photography)

Exactly this time last week, the Irish festival in Fribourg was in full swing. I was in La Spirale Jazz Club enjoying an exhilarating performance by The Dixie Micks. At the end of the sold-out concert, I ended up on stage with fellow organisers Julie and Deirdre for a rendition of Whiskey in the Jar. I can’t remember the last time I was part of such a joyful gathering.

The day had started at the university building with a writing workshop, followed by two public lectures and an interview with John Boyne. Later, there were two more author events in Equilibre Theatre, and two films (A Date for Mad Mary and Redemption of a Rogue) before The Dixie Micks concert.

Before that, bright and early, I was standing at a bus stop with a sandwich board and a bunch of large cut-out arrows in bright orange card. Things got so busy on Sunday afternoon that I needed my bicycle to travel quickly between the The Celtic Cello concert set-up, the Welcome Desk at Equilibre Theatre and the Cinema Rex to announce the Irish-language film The Quiet Girl.

From the launch party on Friday afternoon to finally packing away the welcome desk on Sunday evening, I had seen friends, guests, volunteers and visitors happily take over the streets of Fribourg, secure in their welcome. In the 20 years I’ve lived here, it’s never felt more like home.

The Irish Festival Fribourg/Freiburg (IFF) has gradually taken over my life in the past year. Before the festival fades into a blur of indistinct moments in my memory, I want to get some highlights down in colour. I want to remember how amazing it was.

I hope you enjoy these photos, some taken by friends, some by our official photographers Rromir Imami and Patrice Bechtiger.

John Boyne signing books after his interview with Helen Stubbs Pugin (Photo credit: Rromir Imami)
The Celtic Cello performance in l’Hôpital des Bourgeois (Photo credit: Rromir Imami)
With Deirdre Coghlan (L), Julie Hunt (R) and The Dixie Micks (Photo credit: @seaagency1)
Padraig Rooney and Nuala O’Connor (Photo credit: Patrice Bechtiger Photography)

Captive audience at the lecture by Shane Walshe of the Swiss Centre of Irish Studies (Photo credit: Rromi Imami)
The writing workshop with Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Photo credit: Rromir Imami)
Véronique Platschka of Tourism Ireland and Shane Walshe at the Welcome Desk (Photo credit: Patrice Bechtiger Photgraphy)

A week on, today, the festival team – temporarily scattered by illness and other work commitments – got together to review the weekend. The verdict: we couldn’t have asked for a better first edition of the festival, we expect to come back in 2025 (tbc) and we need time to tend to the neglected parts of our lives – in my case writing.

A thousand thanks to all who came to Fribourg for the festival, to the volunteers, our local partners, the guests of honour, the visitors and those who made the inaugural IFF possible through financial and practical support:

Loterie Romande, Tourism Ireland, l’Agglomération de Fribourg, l’Etat de Fribourg, Culture Ireland, Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme, Colm and Ella Kelleher, the Irish Embassy Berne, Max Geilinger Stiftung, IFI International, McGonigle Watches and the Swiss Centre of Irish Studies.