When we first arrived in Dublin, we used to browse through tourist shops a lot. Learning what the tourism industry sees as the country’s unique selling points, is a good way of getting your bearings in a foreign country.
Being Dutch, we hardly ever bought anything, but we did fall in love with Ireland instantly. Not because of those posters with rolling green hills, that give the impression you can bump into Gandalf the Grey here at any given moment.
No – we fell in love with Ireland because of the country’s attention to its traditional crafts. Where Dutch tourist shops are stacked with plastic windmills made in China, Irish tourist shops reserve the prime spots for hand knit Aran scarves, woodworked gardening instruments, or relish from Ballymaloe.
As we spent more time in Ireland, we learned the love for traditional crafts isn’t confined to tourist shops either. At the Electric Picnic music festival last year, we were surprised to find woodcutting workshops, embroidery classes and slow food sit-ins – a welcome change to dancing to loud rock music amidst a lager-fuelled crowd of hipsters.
And now, the traditional crafts are coming to Dublin, with ‘Bloom in the Park’; a festival that brings the best of Irish horticulture and food.
This Friday, we were at Bloom in the Park’s opening photo shoot. Ceramist Colm de Rís, garden designer Jane McCorkell, broadcaster Ella McSweeney, and Bord Bia show manager Gary Graham were riding matte green Dutch bicycles, with crates overflowing with food and flowers.
Little girls were dancing around them, dressed like elves – their high laughs accompanying the rustle of the leaves in Phoenix Park’s ancient trees. In a blur, the bicycles seemed to transform to horses, and the little girls seemed to float around them, arms waving and wings flapping.
It may have been our imagination, but for a moment, in the background, we thought we saw a tall man with a grey beard and pointed hat standing among the trees – almost as if Gandalf had also turned up for the photo shoot.
Bord Bia’s Bloom which takes place over the June Bank Holiday Weekend for five days from Thursday June 2nd to Monday June 6th