Colin farrell muligans

Craic has 20 years of highlights

Colin Devlin will perform at Craic Fest20 on Saturday, March 3, at the Mercury Lounge.

By Peter McDermott

One of the best things about the Craic Festival, its founder believes, is the new music its star acts try out when they take the stage each year in Downtown Manhattan.

And, indeed, when the Echo talked to him last week Terence Mulligan had just been listening to the latest tracks from Colin Devlin, who will kick off Craic Fest20 on Saturday, March 3, at the Mercury Lounge. Also returning for the show are Natalie Clark and Count Vaseline.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

As he prepared for the 20th edition of the festival, Mulligan recalled that while music was originally part of his plan it wasn’t included until 10 years ago. He’d had an elaborate idea for a New York Irish cultural event that would be include comedy, music, films and more. Then Pauline Turley of the Irish Arts Center said to him: “You’re mad. You’d need 20 people.”

Colin Farrell, right, at the 2008 New York premiere of

“In Bruges,” with Terence and Flavia Mulligan.

“As I walked away from the center, I thought: ‘She’s right. I’ll just have films for now.’” And so building on that good advice, the Film Fleadh was born.

“There have been so many moments,” he said about the 20 years thus far. One important memory for him was the guest appearance of boxer Francie Barrett for the screening of "Southpaw," a documentary focusing on the obstacles he had to overcome in his life and career.

Born to a Traveler family, Barrett had been at 19 a few years earlier the youngest member of the Irish Olympic team at the Atlanta Games, where he carried the national flag.

“He was very genuine and very likable,” Mulligan said. “Everybody loved him.”

Later on, singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey became an important part of the Craic Festival story. “He put us on the map,” the founder said.

When the Dublin musician arrived in New York, however, he had the flu. Mulligan said to him: “You’ve got to pull this together, big man.”

Dempsey did, and the Craic Festival director will be forever grateful.

“People remember us for that,” he said.

The screening of “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” the Ken Loach-directed film set during the 1916-23 period in Ireland, was also a milestone. “That put it us on another level,” he said. “It had been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and it made people take notice.”

Its star Cillian Murphy had been a guest of the festival some years earlier when new to fame.

“He was the nicest kid,” Mulligan said of the Cork-born actor.

The comedy part of the equation finally came into its own when the Limerick duo the Rubber Bandits headlined the festival. “That attracted an audience that we hadn’t had before,” he said. “We had them twice, in fact.”

Finally, a short history of the Craic has to include the appearance of another Irish movie star. The festival director had secured “In Bruges,” the Martin McDonagh-directed black comedy starring Brendan Gleason, and he was anxious to have Gleason’s fellow Dubliner and co-star Colin Farrell appear at the Craic that year.

“I flew to the Sundance Film Festival and got in his face,” he recalled with a laugh.

It worked. Farrell agreed to do the post-screening Q & A.

“It was awesome,” Mulligan said.

Craic Fest begins at Mercury Lounge on March 3. The film part of festival runs from March 8-10 at Cinepolis Theater. All of the directors will attend for Q&As. For tickets go to