The first time I heard of Chapelizod, I had no idea where it was. When I was told it was along the Liffey, on the other end of the Phoenix Park, I thought it sounded far, very far. My then boyfriend was living there and he loved it. But he’s a country boy, and I’m a city girl, so I wasn’t too sure about venturing so far out of the city. My first weekend in Chapelizod felt like a weekend away. It was autumn and we would go for big long walks in the park, picking up firewood, finishing with a little drink in the Villager before going home to light a fire, and relax reading the papers. I would then go back to the ‘city’ on a Sunday evening, with my little red suitcase, rested after my weekend away in the ‘countryside’.
Little did I know that Chapelizod would become the place the then boyfriend -now husband – and I would call home, where we would raise our children and carve ourselves a life; our own little piece of heaven on earth.
I have to admit the Festival felt a bit like an anomaly during those first few peaceful summers in our little village. It took us by surprise a few times. What’s all this excitement around our street? Where are all these people coming from? Why is Barney at my front door? Now of course I am well aware when the Festival is coming up. Flyers and posters are all around. And the excitement! Don’t plan anything else that week, or else you will miss out on the many activities on offer.
This year, after a rocky start, the sun decided to come out and shine over the opening ceremony, with costumes and faces painted. Charlotte’s crew strutted their stuff and we all clapped. Judging by the originality of some of the costumes on display at the grand opening, some children take competitions seriously indeed! There was baking, walking, painting, partying, and much laughter heard around our streets during Festival week. And we’re sure finishing the day with a massive conga to the music of Muzzle will be a new tradition. Children looked forward to the craic in Fort Lucan. A word of warning: don’t get caught out, bring a change of clothes, because there sure is fun in getting splashed! Loyalties and friendships were tested as table quiz teams are formed in the weeks before the festival.
For some people it’s the end of December, for others it’s the end of school that marks the end of the year. For us in Chapelizod, it’s the end of the Festival that marks the end of the year and the beginning of the summer. It closes our community’s year like a red cherry on a big cream cake. And what a Festival it was this year again! There may be ups and downs through the year, but the Festival reminds us how sweet life is in our beautiful village, our perfect piece of the countryside in the city.
I had volunteered a few times in the past, teaching the elderly computer skills, and working on a show at a community radio station, so I wasn’t nervous about volunteering as such. But during those volunteer placements, I was an individual contributor. I gave my time and skills, and that was about it. I did not have to discuss, debate, negotiate with anyone. How would I get on as part of a committee? Would there be egos to content with? Would there be a hierarchy, a fine balance not to upset? Would there be a goodie-two-shoes, a know-it-all, a bossy bully? Would there be meetings about meetings and time-wasters? Would there be a place for me?
I needn’t have feared. I found volunteering with the Festival committee straightforward. Roles and responsibilities are fluid; tasks get assigned informally to whomever is available. I quickly felt that I could fit in. I soon noticed however that a handful of volunteers on the committee really do a lot, and there’s a bunch of us doing much less. Would this be OK? Sure it was. Not everyone can be at every meeting, or attend every event. That’s fine. Different people have different skills, different personal preferences, and a different amount of time they can contribute. During the Festival, I ended up turning up at the children’s table quiz and collecting and marking answer sheets with another volunteer. During the year, I sold entry tickets and raffle tickets at events. Even if that’s all I would end up doing, it’s still fine, it’s still something.
So if you are considering volunteering with the Chapelizod Festival, don’t worry if you don’t have much time to devote. Maybe you can bake, sew, or draw? Do you own a van or a marquee? Do you have a deep scary voice or a long white beard? All these things are valuable. Don’t put it off, get in touch.
By Amandine Passot