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Sing, smile, skate, surf: Festival season on Donegal turf

How Nicole got on at Sea Sessions

Written by Nicole Mullan and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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“Grab your coat it’s time to hit the road… I think I know some place that we can go…” - The Coronas.

The perfect opportunity had finally arrived for me to dig out that shirt I impulsively purchased at a vintage sale years beforehand. Splashed with polka dots, it was an explosion of colour, three sizes too big, deemed too eccentric (even for me) to be worn on any given day. But this was no ordinary day. Having stuffed my suitcase with all the wacky, colourful clothes I could find, I sat on it to jam it closed, then hauled it into the car. Festival season was upon us and I was off to Bundoran to bask in the ambiance. Sea Sessions 2017 awaited.

Lucky for me, I’ve a friend from college with a house in Bundoran and so a bunch of us were invited to spend the weekend at her house. That being so, we had access to amenities campsite dwellers could only dream of. Almost sacred resources that were not typical of your average festival experience. A shower with hot running water. No need for dry shampoo. A comfy bed. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep at night. Yet, the option for a morning lie-in was available to you if you wanted it.

Exam results had just been released. Thankfully we had all passed, so this would be a weekend for celebrating. After a long journey we each landed in Bundoran, only to spend the next few hours catching up. Before we knew it the festival had started. After rushing to the local store to pick up some bits and pieces to get us through the weekend, we rummaged through the bags for suitable attire and walked towards the big blue tents, where the festival was taking place, just in time to see Sigma.

There were loads of talented groups and musicians playing that weekend across different genres of music. Most of the audience ranged from their teens to their late twenties, while Primal Scream attracted some older, loyal fans. Young or old, we savoured it together. The band I had come to see was The Coronas. They’re a personal favourite of mine and they certainly did not disappoint.

Saturday night the tent was packed. A feeling of elation possesses you within the tent. You’re surrounded by thousands with a similar taste in music. You push against each other as you dance or jump along to the music; singing your heart out whilst keeping each other upright. It doesn’t matter how talented a singer you are. Together with the rest of the crowd you echo the lyrics to perfection. For a moment you’re in your own world, a state of limbo between the musical madness. It’s not a negative feeling. It’s rapturous, like you haven’t a care in the world. The band you admire is only inches away. Faces covered in glitter and face paint. You wrap your arms around the sweaty bodies next to you. You’ve never met each other before but in that moment you’re the closest of friends, embracing your love for the band. Shaking your heads like maniacs, your curly locks sway in tune with the beat. The slow song begins and phones soar, glistening light around the tent. Chancers are lifted up on one another’s shoulders, hoping to be spotted on camera or by the musician they’ve had a crush on for many years. Then the stewards flash a red light in their direction as a warning to get down before they fall and injure themselves or others. One daring soul ascends the stage during the interval doing a bit of a jig. The crowd cheers to commend their efforts as security escorts the ‘mad-hatter’ off stage. Boys remove their jerseys in support of their home county. Waving them in the air, while the crowd chant “oley oley” in typical Irish fashion, as the performance comes to an end.

The notorious “one more tune” chant begins to float like a wave though the tent. More often than not the band returns to give their fans one more song to remember. As they belt out the lyrics to their most famous tune, a canon shoots confetti, showering the crowd. Smoke is emitted to enhance the experience and mark the end of the show.

We sang with strangers to Bruno Mars lyrics while we queued for the toilet. Our festive style was now hidden by those bright coloured rain jackets that you can fold into a bag. At least we were protected from the rain. Tying the strings of confetti we caught around our heads like a bandana, we thought they were stylish as we walked to a nearby Chinese to purchase the locally famous 4 in 1. The handmade bandana would be long lost by the time we got home; dropped somewhere along the way.

The unique thing about Sea Sessions is that it is a surf and music festival. Keen to experience it all, we each got a wetsuit and a surfboard. Pulled on our sandals, grabbed some towels and headed for the beach. I was the only one from the group I was with, to have never surfed before. Upon reaching the beach I dipped a toe in the water and decided against it. As a perpetually cold creature, that spends most of her time wrapped in a fluffy blanket, I went with the option that was less likely to result in pneumonia.

However, for professional surfers or braver souls, I hear Bundoran is a popular surfing destination. Instead we relaxed on the rocks near the water and then took the opportunity to explore part of the Wild Atlantic Way. We ventured towards a Fairy Bridge and a Wishing Chair. Anyone with an interest in photography may find that it’s a nice spot to catch the beauty of the Irish coast. Although, we did find it difficult to get a decent photograph with the coast in the background, without the wind blowing our hair everywhere. I could have sent that photo in as an application for the casting of the film “The Ring”. There was a striking resemblance between myself and the girl who climbs out of the well, because of the way my hair was positioned around my face.

Skateboarders showed skills at the festival while the funfair, Ferris wheel and playground also provided entertainment for those young at heart. The atmosphere at the festival was great. I was slightly confused as to why a random girl was asking me if I was going to Paris. It had always been a dream of mine to see the French city but how did she know that? I soon realised that “Paris” was the name of the local nightclub and the entry queue was extensive. Town was lively. The pubs and the takeaways were jam-packed.

Of course at a festival like this there will be alcohol consumed. This is all well and good as long as you drink in moderation (and are of the legal age obviously). Sadly though people can often exceed their limits and sometimes to a worrying extent. When you’re attending a festival you can expect to see some drunken folk wandering around, but at one point we came across a distressing scene. Finding a young boy curled up, freezing cold and almost unconscious, at the edge of the beach in the dark was not pleasant. We quickly got him medical attention but who knows how long he would have been lying there for, if my friend didn’t spot him when she did. It only took us a few minutes to get him help because stewards were on duty throughout the festival grounds but I think it’s important to take precautions to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Many people enjoy an odd alcoholic beverage. I myself find it hard to resist a sweet, fruity cocktail but don’t let yourself reach that state. Not only will you damage your health but you won’t remember the weekend or festivities.

Typically people go to festivals to see a band they know and are a fan of, but it also gives you an opportunity to discover a new musician you might like. Sea sessions had musicians from techno to jazz to alternative. I discovered the band Stomptown Brass for the first time at the festival. Their song “I Got a Plan” was infused with a kind of Great Gatsby vibe that I liked. Although the line-up hasn’t been released yet, tickets are already on sale for next year. Better start saving up now for another festival experience. Maybe I’ll even try travel to one overseas next year!

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Published September 11th, 2017
Last updated February 23rd, 2018
Tags sea sessions festival summer
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