Ted Fest Oz Preview

April 21, 2010


Four years after bringing the feck, the arse and the drink to the Aran Islands, Peter Phillips and the crew behind Ted Fest are bringing the world’s zaniest fan convention to Australia for the inaugural Ted Fest OZ, which takes place in Parkes, New South Wales over the Easter Weekend, April 2nd-5th.

Started by Phillips, a Welsh film maker, in 2007 Ted Fest is a celebration of all things Father Ted which aimed to be the opposite of most fan conventions, which were just a few fans gathered in a pub with a few token ‘stars’ dragged in to sign autographs. The premise of Ted Fest was to create Craggy Island, with fans becoming the characters and making the fiction of Father Ted a reality.

“On the first night of Ted fest there is a fancy dress party and there are lots of people dressed up as nuns, bishops and Mrs. Doyles. It’s a big party,” Phillips told me before this years second sitting on Inis Oirr. “But by Saturday it morphs and the illusion of Craggy Island becomes a reality. You have two girls dressed as rabbits cycling across Killmurvey beach; a man in a spider man costume and a nappy buying a paper at Tigh Poill (he’s a spider baby) and a group of cross dressing nuns indulging in a spot of five a side football, all as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “

The festival respected the legacy of stand up comedy in the history of the series by presenting the Toilet Duck award to the best new Irish stand up and also hosted the Loveliest Horse, Lovely Girls and loveliest couple contest, the winners of which were married by “Father “ Dara Molloy and an Elvis impersonator, in a ceremony that was one half ancient pagan ritual, one half Blue Hawaii spoof.

It’s been brought around the world by Susan Fagan (29), the creative director of newly born arts, media and Events Company JUICED Media, which promotes arts and entertainment in regional Australia. Having left Ireland just before the first Ted Fest in 2007 she was enraged she couldn’t be apart of the festivities. Driven demented by the tale of the craic to be had by her friends and her family she wrote a scurrilous email to Phillips, chastising him for not having a similar event in Australia.

“You have to remember if we’ve chosen to live at the other end of the world we’re not going to go home in one of the coldest, crappiest months of the year and sail the Irish seas for a fecking festival,” says Fagan. She stressed the popularity of the show in Oz, the similarities in national psyches and underlined how much she and her fellow ex-pats missed it. Loaded with Fr Ted language and colloquialisms there could only be one reply.

‘Bring Tedfest to a bunch of convicts?” says Philips. “That’d be mad. Let’s do it!” And it just took off from there.

The first problem was to find the right venue. All the Islands off Australia looked like Bounty adds which flew in the face of the cold, windswept look Craggy Island projected. They chose, instead, to create a Craggy Inland and opted for the town of Parkes, a busy little town, with lots of cafes and shops amongst traditional country stores. Everyone knows everyone else’s business and it has more pubs than you can shake an empty glass at!

“But what really convinced Peter (Phillips) that he had the right place was when he was driving via the outback to get there and heard Dolly Parton and AC/DC back to back on the radio. That pretty much sold him on the place” says Fagan.

They are constructing the Island on the showground, which is about five minutes from the centre of town where guests can camp. They also have 20 VIP ‘Hay horse sheds’ where exclusive guests can stay and there is plenty of accommodation around, hotels/motels/B&Bs etc.

The event will bare many similarities to her Irish sister, not least because many of the Aran Islanders involved in the original festival are making the trip out, but since they are having to construct an island, rather than work within the constraints of what’s already there, they can get a little bit more creative.

“We’re building John & Mary’s shop, which will sell traditional Irish old fashioned foods via main sponsor, TasteIreland.com and where John and Mary will actual serve (two friends of Fagan’s, an engaged couple who always give out to one another) and a Chinatown, with traditional Chinese Food and dress.”

Although many of the events have been imported, some have been designed specifically for Ted Fest Oz including Craggy Ashes (a cricket match between Australia and Ireland where the Australian team dress as Elvis impersonators and the Irish team dress as priests), Elvis Cage Fighting and Ned Kelly Paintballing.

“We’ve just raised the stakes with their captain this morning” says Phillips. “If we loose we have to burn an effigy of Daniel O’Donnell. If they do, it’s Ricky Ponting.”

So where is Ted off to next?  “Patagonia” Phillips says with a laugh.” In all seriousness we’ve had a request to bring it to New Zealand but were just going to take it one bit of craic at the time.”

A Weekend Ticket for Tedfest Oz costs AUD 250.00 and includes admission to all events along with a cup of tea on arrival. 

Camping (tent, caravan and camper pitches), or a limited number of spaces in Assumpata’s are also included in the ticket price.

CountryLink run trains from Sydney to Parkes (www.countrylink.info)

Rexjet operate scheduled flights from Sydney to Parkes with discounts for groups.

Rex airlines booking: 13 17 13 www.rex.com.au

Group bookings on Rex airlines: grouptravel@rex.com.au

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