Tuesday, 12 June 2012

It was a typically British wet weekend for the Queen's diamond jubilee with various outdoor events going on all over the UK. We went into town to watch a parade of Scouts and Guides who would then light a beacon at the top of Scolty Hill. There was a ceilidh band and bouncy castles in the park creating a party atmosphere despite the cool weather.

I spent Tuesday figuring out how to squeeze my tools, quilts and clothes into a very small suitcase. I also gave the dogs a summer haircut even though we had to wear thick jumpers and light a fire to "enjoy" a June barbecue.

Wednesday was a very wet and blustery day so my flight to Dublin for the first International Quilt Festival of Ireland was delayed for an hour. This meant that I had to catch a later bus for the 3 hour trip to Galway but The Forsters Court Hotel was most welcoming. The weather girl on the local TV news promised that the next day would be wet with a strong possibility of "T'under!"

I spent Thursday with Claudia Pfeil helping to hang the antique quilt collection as she had arrived a day earlier and had already set up the longarm workshop. The volunteers were busily running around fetching battens, hooks and signs. There had been an unfortunate computer crash which meant that some of the crucial last minute preparation time had to be spent retrieving bookings information. Everyone was lending a hand to get things ready.

The Festival was held on the University of Galway campus and an amazing theatrical set had been created to make the front entrance look like a medieval Irish castle. The student union bar became "The Wicked Thimble Pub". There were cleverly staged themed exhibits, such as "The Quilted Garden", "Chocolate" and "3-D Quilts", some of which were enhanced with sounds and smells.

That evening we attended a Gala Dinner to open the Festival. After a champagne reception we enjoyed an excellent dinner that was followed by an inspiring speech by Jinny Beyer. The entertainment was far beyond my expectations. Irish musicians, singers and dancers, some of whom had toured with "Riverdance" and "The Chieftains" gave a world class performance and created a wonderful atmosphere for all of the international visitors.

The show opened on Friday – there were long queues of expectant visitors signing up for last minute places for classes with an impressive teaching faculty. Claudia and I soon found that we worked as a good team, teaching and demonstrating on the longarm machine that APQS had shipped from the USA especially for the show. It was a good thing that we had enjoyed a hearty breakfast – we were so busy that we never really found any time to stop and have lunch. Eventually, I sneaked out to have a proper look around the exhibits and the vendor mall. In the evening I met Ellen and we had a pint of Beamish Irish Stout with fresh local fish and chips in a charming pub called "The Quays" in the old part of Galway City. There were buskers in the streets and Irish music playing live in many of the busy pubs.

On Saturday the sun came out at last and it made everyone smile. We left early for the show but passed a lively produce market just opening. Galway was definitely filling up with people for the weekend. Our students were delighted with Claudia's "Irish Special Class" which was a combination of creating quilting designs and hands-on practice with the longarm machine. We had all sorts of students from hand-quilters and those using domestic machines to experienced longarmers, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the classes. During one of the classes we had pupils from Ireland, England, Canada, America, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Switzerland!

We went out for supper with a group of friends to the Galway City Bakery where we received excellent service. Afterwards, we wandered through Shop Street, soaking up the lively Saturday night atmosphere.

Sunday was a little quieter as the quilters were all becoming tired after all of their touring and festival activities but the sun continued to shine and there were still plenty of visitors at the show. Claudia and I even ran out of business cards. We packed up the machine and thanked Jim West's stalwart assistants who had been so helpful, especially Nora and Liam.

We decided to have supper in the hotel bar with Judi and Angela from British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine. Ireland was playing football and losing against Croatia on the large TV but the locals remained pragmatic about their team's efforts. We were too tired to explore that evening so we just crossed the road to "Murty Rabbits", the pub across the road, where football supporters mingled happily with tourists and old-timers and a terrific live folk band played traditional Irish music.

I enjoyed the Festival and found the Irish people charming. I hope that it is an event in the quilting calendar that will go from strength to strength, getting bigger and better but retaining its friendly Irish charm!


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