Michelle describes her experience of IMBOLC after volunteering at the 2023 festival below! Want to take part? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Hi everyone! I’m Michelle, a final year Music student studying at Ulster University, Magee.
I’ve just finished up volunteering at IMBOLC, here’s a summary of my time, what I did, and
Michelle on the back right with our team of incredible team of volunteers, as well as Fern Maddie, and Laytha!
It all started when I saw IMBOLC advertised on social media, it was something I’d heard
mentioned before but didn’t know much about. As someone who comes from a
Classical/Pop background, I felt the festival was a little out of my comfort zone also!
Curiosity got the better of me however, and I was soon stepping into the beautiful An
Chulturlánn building for the first time. I got to meet and work alongside their friendly staff and
fellow volunteers, and it was evident how passionate everyone was about the festival.
Everyone in the building, audience included, showed a common drive to foster and preserve
the arts and culture; something which can easily be seen as secondary or optional by some.
This was a safe place for artists to truly be celebrated, something which was refreshing to
With volunteering at the doors and merch stands, I was able to sneak into the performances
(my main objective!). Every night offered something different to me, all of them introducing
me to new music; from indie-pop to trad, and fusions of every genre in between. The talent
of each artist was amazing to see also, everyone put on such a show. Despite such an array
of genres and atmospheres captured, a common theme of freedom and intimacy prevailed-
I feel the setting of the concerts gave the performers a space to feel free and perform to
their absolute best ability; and also set the attentive atmosphere of the audience.
One of the most memorable experiences that comes to mind was Rose Connolly’s performance as
part of Ó Bhéal go Béal, hosted by Lynette Fay on Thursday night. One of her final songs,
dealing with the subject of death, used the accordion in ways I’d never heard or seen
before. You could’ve heard a pin drop as she used the air button to create a breathing effect
at the end of the song as if of someone taking their last breaths; it was truly mesmerising. It’s
this kind of talent that deserves a platform to be introduced to more people, which is why
IMBOLC is so important.
Another prominent takeaway from the festival was my re-introduction to the world of Trad
and its different avenues, as someone was involved in trad and the Irish language in primary
school. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy Séan-nós singing so much but have now
found a new appreciation for it thanks to An Chéad Ghulúin Eile and their sweet, effortless
harmonies. Despite the fact I have very limited Irish, I still was able to be taken away by the
melodies and evident passion displayed onstage- music is a language in itself. Reconnecting
with traditional music and seeing its wider significance in our country was also something
that made IMBOLC special for me.
An Chéad Ghluin Eile
All in all, my first IMBOLC was very enjoyable, it will hopefully not be my last! This is thanks
to such an apparent care taken by the team at every stage of the events, from the artists to
the audience. This undoubtedly shines through, making each concert that bit more personal.