Back in February 2017 the quasi union of young drinks companies in Northern Ireland, Bullhouse Brewing Co, Harland Wines, Nightcap Beer Co and Copeland Spirits met for lunch. We were meeting in order to discuss breaking into the ever saturated drinks industry, each discussing the market trends we had seen and the overall aims of our companies. Naturally, it ended as a session discussing the pitfalls of a crowded industry and how we could all help each other out.
Each of us had our own story to tell about entering the drinks industry, but all with a similar underlying theme. Following our degrees we each felt the urge of entrepreneurship felt passionate about starting local drinks businesses to take on the industry incumbents. The average age of each company is around 18 months and it’s fair to say that it has been a baptism of fire for each of us.
Two things have really become apparent above all else, one is that there is a growing market for fresh, innovative and particularly local products within the drinks industry, it is apparent that the old staples are no longer safe – saying that, the demand for Buckfast and a pint of Harp remains rife! The other is that the market is extremely hard to break in to due to the dominance of large, often multinational players found within the Northern Irish drinks industry. It was at this lunch that we dreamt up the idea for Focal Festival.
Focal Festival was conceived with the sole purpose of promoting local produce, industry and arts. We have attempted to create a festival that is 100% independent from large corporation with a focus on local wherever possible. Upon hunting for a location, we found Crescent Gardens in the heart of Botanic. An often overlooked park with a somewhat chequered past, it boasts some of Belfast’s finest architecture surrounding a contained green, open space – a perfect spot for Focal Festival to reinvigorate.
Supporting local musicians is also something that is very important to us. The Northern Irish music scene is as strong as ever, the talent displayed across the province really is second to none. I don’t think there is a city Belfast’s size in the world that can compete with the level of live music acts that Belfast offers on a weekly basis. With Northern Ireland hosting some huge festivals, one over a month long period Melsonic*, it bemused us that they do not support local produce or acts. After consulting many people with experience in this field, we were repeatedly told “Juinness, Poke-a-Pola, Nagners* would definitely get behind the festival” and that a festival like this could not be done without either a huge whack of cash or their support. This is due to the difficult nature of running a festival, with a large amount of hidden costs – think insurance, security, power, water health and safety, amenities, the list goes on and on. Then on a bit more.
(*not real company names)
Yet with an awful lot of perseverance, long nights, many many favours cashed in, guidance from the ever helpful Belfast City Council and the phenomenal support of many local brands we have been able to create Focal Festival.
At the festival we shall be showcasing the following local wears;
Beer; Farmageddon Brewing Co-Op, Heaney Farmhouse Brewery, Bullhouse Brewing Co, Gallopers, Yardsman and Knockout Brewery.
Gin; Jawbox, Copeland Raspberry & Mint, Copeland Rhuberry
Vodka; Ruby Blue Potato Vodka, Ruby Blue Liqueurs
Cider; Tempted Craft Cider
Non-Alcoholic; Clearer Water, Suki Tea
Wolf & Devour, Woodfire Pizza Co, Sizzling BBQ, Spoon Street
FRIDAY 30th June 5pm-12pm
Discobeard, made up of Ross Maguire and Gareth McGreevy, from Newcastle, Co Down. Best known for their unique take on pop classics these guys are set to get the post work crowds jumping on Friday evening from 6pm.
Russian Dolls, are without doubt becoming one of the most sought after session bands around, so, when the individual members aren’t working and touring with some of Ireland’s world renowned artists, you’ll find them together at festivals like Focal. They’ll play immediately after Discobeard from 8:30pm onwards.
DJ Paul Short will be taking to the stage with his mix of 80’s disco merged with modern house.
SATURDAY 1st July 3pm – 12pm
Will kick off with a fantastic Beer Pong competition run by the National Beer Pong Association. It’ll be £5 per person to enter, if you can stand the heat you’ll be in with a chance of winning a huge hamper of booze worth well over £100.
On Saturday Focal Festival is showcasing the best in original talent in Belfast, each act will be playing their own scores. A chance to catch an emerging Foy Vance or Two Door Cinema Club live.
Fatlip a Brass Heavy musical sensation, whose members have played and recorded with the likes of The Pogues, Bad Manners, Brian May and local talent David Lyttle to name but a few, will be there to give you the best of what is hot – from Hard-hitting Brass and steaming hot funk to the hardest grooving Blues and Jazz. Get your dancing shoes on and don’t miss your chance to experience the hardest working band in Ireland! Catch them from 6- 7:30pm
Cari Q, Texan born, Belfast based. Indie rock singer songwriter will be there covering Mowtown, classic rock and jazz through an array of instruments. Propelled in the US through Season 11 of American Idol, Cari came to Europe to focus on projects she believes in, this has led to various European shows and a UK & Ireland Tour.
7:30 – 8:30pm
Travis Gilbert is the one and only member of Travis Is A Tourist, already popular with Northern Ireland millennials his fictional fantasies and epic journey is something of a mystery. See Travis from 8:45 – 9:30
Tuskany, a Belfast bred indy-pop act have influences of funk, soul and pop in their music. Their sets include lots of punchy riffs and melodic synth lines. Don’t miss them from 9:45– 10:30pm
DJ Paul Short will again take over closing the Festival displaying his unique blends of disco and house.
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