All together now at "Le Chéile"

Story by Paul Hughes

Tuesday, 29th July, 2008 12:00pm

Oldcastle is the place to be this weekend, with the annual "Le Chéile" festival kicking off on Tuesday night of this week, July 29, and continuing until Sunday next, August 3.

The event - which draws plenty of crowds from Westmeath, particularly from the north of the county - is supported by Meath County Council, and runs in conjunction with a number of arts events organised by the Council"s Arts Office.

The ever-improving town of Oldcastle will be a magnet for music lovers this August Bank Holiday weekend, with bands like the Flaws and Mullingar outfits, the Blizzards and the Aftermath, headlining Le Chéile this year.

The organising committee have come up with an impressive schedule to keep festival goers busy all weekend, and it started on Tuesday of this week with a literary evening, with reading by Peter Fallon and Thabi Madide at Oldcastle Library. This event was held in association with Meath County Library and Gallery Press.

On Wednesday, a digital photography workshop with Dominique Davoust kicks off at 8pm, and the festival fun dies down for Thursday before exploding into life again on Friday for Oldcastle"s busiest weekend of the year.

At 8pm on Friday night (with a second show on Sunday, August 3), expect a barrel of laughs at the Red Room in Caffrey"s, with a comedy event aptly named 'The Craic'. Admission is €10, and it"ll be worth stopping by and listening to the sharp wit of some of Ireland"s up and coming comedians, including Graham Storey, Alan Gernon, David O"Gorman, Greg Marks and Jonathan Farrelly.

Alternatively, art buffs can head along to Oldcastle Library at 7.30pm on Friday, where artist Bernie Dignam launches an exhibition, "A Womb of One"s Own" - unique mixed media exhibition exploring the symbolic significance of the womb to women in 21st century Ireland.

The exhibition runs from July 29 to August 3, but launches on Friday night with a discussion featuring a panel of artists and writers. Admission is free.

Friday night in popular Oldcastle venue, The Fincourt, will be set alight with traditional music by the Gartloney Rats, and once again, entry is free of charge.

But the main event on August 1 will be kick off at 8.30pm at the Phantom 105.2 stage at Crean"s, where Mullingar band the Blizzards and another celebrated Irish band, the Flaws, are joined by Cowboy X for a feature concert. Entry is €25, for €5 or free with a Blizzards wristband, you can get into the Le Chéile Aftershow Party at Caffrey"s.

Saturday night, August 2 will see the Republic of Loose, Robotnik and Simon Fagan play Creans at 8.30pm (admission €25), while at 7.30pm, Dublin songsmith Damien Dempsey puts on a show at the Red Room, Caffrey"s with support (entry €20). Section 8 play live at the Fincourt from 10pm (admission free), while at midnight, the obligatory aftershow party will take place at Caffrey"s. Admission to this is €5, or free with a Republic of Loose wristband.

Sunday, August 3 - the final day of the festival - is the busiest, beginning with an art exhibition by Meath Arts Group, starting at 2pm. At the same time, in Caffrey"s Red Room, 'The Backroom' - an acoustic session with artists from Oldcastle and Navan"s only original music venue (admission free).

Families can enjoy an afternoon walk to Loughcrew Cairns, as well as family entertainment at Oldcastle Agricultural Show at Gilson Park.

At 8pm on Sunday, Caffrey"s Red Room is the venue for 'The Craic II', another dose of top Irish comedy (admission €10), while street entertainment kicks off in the Square at the same time. From 6.30pm to 8.30pm, the Fincourt will play host to some 80s classics from "A Right Pair of W**kers", while the crowds will return to the Phantom 105.2 stage at Crean"s for the main event of Sunday evening at 8.30pm - performances by Cathy Davey, The Dolldrums, Mullingar band The Aftermath and The Kinetics (admission €20).

To round off the festival, you can then drop in to Sunday"s midnight aftershow party at Caffrey"s for just €5.

For more information, log on to www.lecheile.com, www.myspace.com/lecheile, or www.bebo.com/Le-Cheile-2008. Tickets are available from Next Door, Oldcastle; e2music Navan and Mullingar; City Discs, Temple Bar; and the Festival Box Office.

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