Inside The Music with Donnell Leahy and Natalie MacMaster from Greenbridge Celtic Folk Festival

We had the chance to ask Greenbridge Celtic Folk Festival organizers, Donnell Leahy and Natalie MacMaster a series of questions for our newest segment of Inside the Music. The Greenbridge Celtic Folk Festival will take place in Keene, ON from August 25 to August 26 and you can find much more information on the festival HERE.

First off, care to introduce yourselves to our readers?

Donnell Leahy and Natalie MacMaster.

What was your first experience in the music industry?

Donnell – my parents had a van and played locally at round dances, square dances and weddings. When I was old enough to fall asleep under the piano I would go with them.  I saw them entertaining people, bringing money home and spending it on groceries.

Natalie – my first experience with the industry was around 1989 when I recorded my first cassette tape, Mom sold it out of the trunk of the car but eventually we got it into stores.

When did you decide to start Greenbridge Celtic Folk Festival? Why?

We first had the idea for the festival about ten years ago.  Seeing great things in festivals where we were performing made us think about great it would be to bring that culture home.  I (Donnell) have always had ideas about how I would do things as a promoter, what artists I would book. You see a lot and it gets you thinking.

What are some of your responsibilities as festival organizers?

All of them!! We program the festival, we are hands on in every respect. Selecting the site, designing the branding, all the marketing, all the planning, selecting the team. We want to run it a certain way and we are very passionate about it.  We have to get the ideas and music in place primarily, much of the logistics are handled by our team of dedicated professionals.

How did you go about choosing the lineup for the festival?

We wanted the music to reflect both our culture and our tastes, that is where we started.  And then it depends on who is available, everyone we have was on our list, was available, that is the way it worked out.Because it is our first festival, we started with a big list of all the people we would like to have and when we researched who was free and who was already booked, that cut the list in half. Then the next step was to make contact to confirm availability and that cut the list further to who we have performing.

Is there a certain act that you’re most looking forward to checking out?

All of them. They have been hand-picked and we are excited for every act that is coming and can’t wait for the festival goers to see and hear them, these are all performers that we have spoken about, told our friends about and we can’t wait to present them.  And its not just music, the cultures of Cape Breton and Ireland are going to well represented, not just in music but in garb, in setting, in workshops, with vendors.  You are going to be able to smell Cape Breton from where we are at.

What have been the biggest challenges that have come up when planning the festival?

The biggest challenge is just the sheer amount of detail, there is so much involved in hosting a public event, from health and safety to electricity and internet, washroom facilities, ticketing, promotion etc.  It’s a lot of work.  The biggest challenges are all the things we didn’t think of when we were just excited to put on a music festival. It is daunting.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to start up a festival in their area?

Start planning early, think big but start small. You have to have a lot of passion and desire and determination for it and if you do, you have to start somewhere so just start. And then if you have already made the commitment, things will fall into place. And you have to be a little bit crazy, that helps.

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