It was around mid-May in 2007 when I thought “Dylan music seems to be popular in Moville – so why not have a DylanFest?” Paddy McLaughlin, a local schoolteacher had brought a couple of generations of Movillians up on Dylan. Paddy had taught many of Moville’s youngsters to play the guitar and with that, some of Dylan’s finest.

Churchill once said “If we had known how unprepared we were for war we would never have got into it”. I was in the same situation, not knowing what I didn’t know about organising a festival. However, six weeks after I got the idea the first DylanFest on the Lough took place.

The day before the start of the festival someone got in touch by phone saying “I hope you don’t mind me calling you up. I sent you an email but you didn’t reply so I thought I’d give you a call. Would you appear on the Dave Fanning SHow tonight?”

To be honest, unlike just about everyone else in Ireland, only having been in Ireland for about 4 years and not being an avid radio listener, I hadn’t heard of him. However, I thought, he seems keen (it was his producer) so I’ll help the guy out. Why not!”

I was on for about 6 or 7 minutes. I thought it was an obscure show so I didn’t tell anyone that I would be on. My sister, who lives in Dublin, was listening to the Dave Fanning Show and was astonished when she suddenly heard her brother being announced.

Not only that but my parents, who live in Scotland, also happened to be listening to the Dave Fanning Show whilst washing and drying the dishes when they suddenly heard their son come on.

It helped to bring a crowd. I was told that someone had come over from San Francisco specially for it. Someone else told me that they were talking to a Canadian couple, who were holidaying in the south of the country, when they heard on the radio about the DylanFest in Moville. They stopped the car and asked someone where Moville was and headed straight here.

THe headline band, who played in the Malin Road, outside Rosatos were The Phantom Engineers. They were a seven-piece band and they were top-notch. People mark them down as one of the best bands to have played here. There was a band from Belgium there as well.

Steph Buhe came from France to play and he was highly popular singing Dylan in a strong French accent. He had everyone singing along as he played all the best known of the classics.

Also, Liam Clancy’s nephew played in Rawdons. He is now one of the highly popular national group The High Kings.

Some of the local pubs were unprepared for the numbers of people coming here for it. One pub told me that the Saturday was their best day since they opened two years previously. Another said he checked the log going back to before his time there and couldn’t find a day when the takings had been higher.

Another pub ran out of gas for the beer and had to borrow some. Yet another ran out of draught beer. The Town Clock had treble their normal takings on the Saturday and four times their normal takings on the Friday – and that was in the days when it was the busiest pub and restaurant in the town.

I’m still astonished how well it went with just 6 weeks to prepare.


The Phantom Engineers were back again playing in the Malin Road in 2008 and just as good. Steph Buhe was back and The Plea played once again. The size of the crowd and the takings were similar to the previous year.

We also had Slow Train Band from Italy. They travelled by Camper ban from Italy and it took them three days to get here. They had prepared three hours worth of music to play on the Friday Night but because of technical problems and a late start they ended up only playing for an hour.

We also had a band from Germany playing and they proved very popular.


This was the first year of the downturn and the numbers were down a little that year. THere was no music outside but just in the pubs. However, it was blessed by arguably the best performance of any of the DylanFest, The Plea’s gig in the Town Clock on the Saturday night. That was the last time that they played at the DylanFest as they went onto national fame and are starting to spread out internationally.

It’s not often that you see people jumping around to Dylan but the brothers Denis and Dermot have a high-octane style. Virtually everyone in the pub was up dancing and bopping around.

Indeed it was so frenetic that the brothers stopped playing as people kept bumping into them and their equipment and one girl grabbed the mike and started singing herself. They are known to have a low threshold and the start of the gig was spiced with some fruity words as they yelled at each other over the performance of the equipment.

I had brought a film crew along to film it at great expense, costing me €500. They needed lights, though, and The Plea had asked for the lights to be turned down. I waited till they had stopped shouting at each other and then asked them if we could have the lights on for a few songs. “Tell the film crew to f*ck off” they told me. “Keep the f*cking lights off”.

Ah well!

Arguably the best ever gig was never filmed.

Afterwards I saw one of them outside and said “That was brilliant. Maybe you could play the street next year as the headline band”. We’re not a f*cking tribute band” he replied.

And that was that!

They have never been back since as the went on to higher things.


This was the year that Al Diesan and Pino Tocco came to play from Sardinia in Italy – and what sensations they were. Many said that this was the best act we ever had. Al can hardly speak any English but is fluent in Dylan. One who was very impressed was Paddy McLaughlin. Indeed, Paddy, who has seen Dylan more than 40 times, said that he would rather listen to Al than Dylan now – although he later said that maybe that was going too far.

He plays and sounds just like Dylan.

Also, that year, we had Peter Landecker come over from Canada to put on his Dylan play in the Hall. Peter is the only man in he world who has permission to use Dylan’s songs and lyrics in his own play. He actually met him twice.

Another great act that year were Ryan O’Dochertaigh’s The Cannibals from Derry. They played in the Bar-a-Cuda and, just like The Plea the year before, had everyone in the Bar-A-Cuda up dancing and leaping around.


Al Diesan makes what he calls a ‘pilgrimage’ to a Dylan event every year. The year before he went to Greenwich Village to play at all the places that Dylan played. He doesn’t usually do the same place twice but he came back for Moville’s DylanFest in 2011 again as he loved it so much the year before.

We were back out in the streets again in 2011 and the Al Diesan Band played the main gig there that year. Everyone loved it.

There is always a new sensation every year and this year it was Jacques Mees from Holland. Jacques runs the DylanFest in Holland. His gig in the Bar-a-Cuda on the Sunday night was said by many to be the best of the festival.

Also over for the DylanFest was Tony Bramwell who was the Beatles Road manager and childhood friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Read more about him here


2012 was a bit of a screw-up. I was asked to put on the Dylanfest when the yachts and the people from the round-the-world Clipper Race. I was worried that all the accommodation would be taken up by the Clipper Race followers and the usual Dylan visitors would not be able to get accommodation.

So, I agreed to put on a mini-DylanFest while the Clipper Race was on and to put on the normal DylanFest a couple of weeks later. However, it didn’t work out for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, not only did the Clipper followers not come to Moville, but many people from Moville went to Derry to see the action there.

Secondly, by the time we put on the proper DylanFest a lot of people though that the mini one was the real one and didn’t turn out for the real one.

There was also a major wedding on the Saturday which took 350 people out-of-town on DylanFest weekend which cut down the local crowd.

However, a good point was the performance of the German duo, Michael Moravek and Kerstin Becker who played he Sean Ti and Rosatos.


THe omens are very good for 2013. The DylanFest on the Lough (Stuck Inside of Moville) is on Derry’s City of Culture 2013 Programme of Events. It is also in The Gathering Calendar of Events.

Wanting to come back this year will be Al Diesan, Jacques Mees, Michael Moravek and Kerstin Becker as well as Steph Buhe who played the first 3 years.

Also keen to come back are the two main guys behind The Cannibals as well as some great acts from Derry. When you add local acts like Matt Whoriskey who won the recent Songwriter Contest then it looks as if this year’s DylanFest could be the best ever.