Electric Picnic has met its match in The Outing. Taking place the last weekend in August, The Outing is a great alternative for those less fussed on camping and more focused on finding their one true love! Gillian Hopper chatted with the fabulous Miss Panti to hear all about her role in this year's rejigged Lisdoonvarna match making festival.
It's brilliant, and bizarre, to think Ireland will host the world's first LGBT matchmaking festival this year. How did it come about?
I'm not 100% sure how it all came about. Eddie McGuinness who is promoting it had some connection with guys down in Lisdoonvarna and was the driving force behind it all. Eddie approached me about it. He's had it on the backburner for about two years, and it's finally getting off the ground this year!
Europe's oldest matchmaking festival (150 years of matching!) is going gay for the first time this August. Willie Daly, the festival's 'matchmaking master', will couple up the singletons with your assistance. What advice has he given you?
None at all, I'm going to leave the real matchmaking up to him. I'll just be bringing my 'gay' expertise.
How's your track record as a matchmaker?
I actually have a very good track record as a matchmaker, even though my own love life is always a mess, I'm actually very good at putting other people together. I have quite a few successful ones under my belt.
Care to share…?
Well I tell you, I once set David Norris up on a blind date and he and the guy ended up going out for well over six years. I set them up on a totally blind date, I just thought 'you know I think you two guys would like each other…' and I was right!
Are you looking forward to meddling?
I'm very good at meddling in other people's lives.
Grindr not cutting it these days then?
Well, there is no great chance that Gridnr's wide popularity is going to decrease any time soon, but I think there are a lot of people out there, gay guys as well, who just aren't comfortable with that sort of approach. They want something a bit subtler. The technology may have changed but the forming of relationships hasn't changed in millennia. If matchmaking has worked in Lisdoonvarna for 150 years I don’t see why it wouldn't work for the gays now. The festival is also a great excuse for the craic. Even if you come away without finding love well sure you've had a great weekend.
For those who saw your show, All Dolled Up: Re-stitched, earlier this summer will be well informed of your county roots! You really embraced, and divulged, the happenings of country living - small talk and all. Is County Clare likely to be alive with gossip by the end of the weekend?
Well I hope it will be alive with gossip by the end of the weekend! I think if all the gays go there, and leave, and the town isn't gossiping about it for WEEKS afterwards we have failed in our duty as gays.
Do you think the festival will help to promote the pending referendum for same sex marriage in Ireland?
Well I don't think the festival has any overarching political ambitions. I mean I suppose all these things help. I think certainly the people in Lisdoonvarna will see that the gays don't act any differently than the straights during the regular festival - which can be quite rowdy! The only people that really have objections on the topic of gay people are the ones that don't really know any gay people. Anything that makes gay people and their lives more livable is always good, but like I said the festival is motivated by the craic and the fun and if any more comes of that, then it's a bonus.
A lot of great entertainment, including your own Panti Show, is in store for those attending the festival. There is a wide range to choose from - celli's and even a tea dance! How was this mixture selected?
Yes it's a great mix of stuff. It all came down to Eddie and one of the other guys behind the promoting of it, Donal. Donal runs a semi-regular event called 'Poor House: party like its 1849' where he combines old and new Ireland and I think that’s basically what this festival is doing on a bigger scale.
Tell us about the youth organisation BelongTo and their involvement with The Outing…
BelongTo are this incredible organisation that do incredible work with young LGBT people. Happy, confident, young LGBT kids are provided with safe places to go to and meet other kids their own age who are having maybe the same problems at school that they have... They can relate to one another and really blossom. As we all know bullying is such a problem in school and LGBT kids bear a lot of the brunt of that sort of stuff. They are an amazing group and if you talk to any of the kids - or rather the ones who aren’t kids anymore but used to go to BelongTo when they were under 18 - they have nothing but the highest praises for it. It really is a great organisation that has made a real difference in the lives of young people that are having a difficult time. I can't praise it enough!
Any advice on pre-Outing prep work? Best foot forward and all that…
Yes. Lower your expectations. People tend to have all of these boxes they want to have ticked off and then they close themselves off to opportunities of other boyfriends/girlfriends because they don't check off all of the imaginary boxes you wanted them too. Just open yourself up to other opportunities.
The Outing weekend will run from 30 August to 1 September.
The Outing Full - Weekend Pass
The Outing - Friday Evening Pass
The Outing - Saturday Evening Pass