Review: The Jewel Box Festival at
by Linda McGrory
DONNIE Brasco is a gem of a film that is often
overlooked when people discuss their favourite Mafia
Inishowen is a gem of a location that is often
overlooked when people discuss their favourite
When the chance came up to attend a brand new
festival (a celebration of music, art, comedy, food
and literature) in the grounds of an historic old
mansion in Moville, my interest was instantly
Entry to the Jewel Box Festival at Carnagarve House
on Saturday was by way of a €20 donation. Having
regularly walked past this old building on the
shores of Lough Foyle for 13 years, I thought, 'I'd
give €20 just for a look inside...and anything else
will be a bonus'.
I suppose I could have asked for a media pass but
then it would have been a work night and I didn't
want it to be a work night.
Carnagarve House is a beautiful, late-Georgian
building (circa 1825) with a domed glass
conservatory which has held a fascination for people
for decades - all the more so because, despite being
tantalisingly close to the shore path, it has been
off limits for decades.
Festival acts take to the stage to
perform 'With a Little Help from My Friends'.
We couldn't make the
4pm festival start, so like many others, we missed
some great local acts like the Moville Gospel Choir,
Spring Tides, Broken Hearted Horses, Leo McCauley
and Sean Hiboy. We also missed most of the cookery
demonstrations but got to taste some fabulous
barbecued lamb and salsa verde at the last demo.
*Note to self - salsa verde, in all its green, herby
glory, is probably not recommended when you have
braces on your teeth and forget to bring an interdental brush.
When we arrived shortly after 7pm, there was a nice
buzz about the place and the first thing we did was
go inside the old house. There was an art exhibition inside but
the house is so beautiful (even in its current,
disused state); and the evening light and panoramic
view over Lough Foyle so stunning, the house and its
original features was a gallery in itself.
The immediate grounds of the house - essentially a
large walled garden - provided a secluded, intimate
feel to the festival with its myriad tents and
We heard Swedish folk artist Klara Kjellen and Derry
singer-songwriter William Carson's set.
Festival organiser Sarah McGuinness throwing
percussive little egg-shakers into the crowd during
her set, was a nice, inclusive touch which followed
through to the rest of the evening.
Just as we were all getting a little too comfortable
in our surroundings, British comedian Luisa Omielan
(described as "one of the stand-up hits of the
decade") burst onto the stage to shake things up.
She gave festival-going parents a heads-up of what
was to come "mother******s", but some people were
well caught out and had to swiftly exit the tent
with their children in tow as Omielan got into her
They probably had to cover their kids' ears outside
the tent too as the expletives bounced like flat
stones across Lough Foyle.
What followed in Omielan's set was an hilarious
adult-themed routine exploring pop culture and its
obsession with the body beautiful. A particularly
funny segment focused on the power of female
genitalia and how Omielan's had been known to
empower previously bland ex-boyfriends to superhuman
endeavour - you could say it was all about lady
gardens in the walled garden.
Pulling her trousers down to celebrate her lack of a
'thigh-gap' added no small measure of shock value as
the energetic comic gave two fingers to a culture
increasingly obsessed with bodily perfection.
The 4 of Us on stage at the Jewel Box
The headline act, the
veteran troubadours The 4 of Us, were simply superb.
The Newry brothers, Brendan and Declan Murphy,
performed a brilliant set that was both familiar and
intimate yet got the tent rocking from the get go.
The band delivered a powerhouse performance, honed
to perfection over many years, that seemed to defy
the fact that it was just two men with two guitars
(and a few effects) onstage.
A modest fireworks display - set against the
backdrop of a Foyle moonset - was another unexpected
turn from the festival organisers.
The Jewel Box Festival lived up to its name - plenty
of gems along with the excitement of not knowing
what will be plucked out of the box next.
And so I circuitously return to Donnie Brasco.
One of the early scenes in the 1997 movie has Johnny
Depp - an undercover FBI agent trying to infiltrate
the mafia - being shown a diamond ring by the
mafioso 'Lefty', played by Al Pacino.
The question is, is the gem a 'fugazi' (a fake) or
is it the real thing.
The organisers of the fledgling Jewel Box Festival
on the shores of Lough Foyle have a long way to go
in their ambition to organically grow it into an
iconic, independent cultural event.
From its first outing, however, it appears the
ambition is honestly-held and as authentic as
Carnagarve House itself.
The Jewel Box Festival is no fugazi.